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LG shakes up its smartphone launch strategy

LG's vice chairman says it will launch phones when it is needed, leading to a lot of speculation.


Will LG pull back on phones?

James Martin/CNET

LG is taking a new approach to its phones

The Korean consumer electronics conglomerate hinted at a shake-up on how and when it would launch phones. "We will unveil new smartphones when it is needed," said LG Vice Chairman Sung-jin Cho at a press conference at CES, according to the Korea Herald. "But we will not launch it just because other rivals do."

His comments come amid several years in which LG's flagship phone lines, the G and V series, have been largely been ignored in favor of Apple's iPhones, Samsung's Galaxy line or smaller upstarts like Xiaomi or OnePlus. The comments spark speculation LG will drop the annual upgrades, potentially a response to its flagship phones being largely been ignored by the market. 

Cho said he planned to retain existing models by unveiling "more variant models" for different regions and customers, according to the Korea Herald. 

But the comment could be interpreted to mean LG will change the launch time of phones within a calendar year so it wouldn't necessarily compete directly with rivals. 

For instance, LG has traditionally launched its G phone at Mobile World Congress in late February, right around when Samsung launches its new Galaxy phone. His comments could be interpreted to mean the launch will happen at a different time so there's less overlap. Samsung will launch its Galaxy S9 at MWC.

The comment about more variant models also diverges from the typical strategy of building a single flagship phone for every market, a la Samsung or Apple. 

Another shake-up maybe with branding. Digital Daily, a Korean publication, said that the company was going to get rid of the G name for its flagship phone. 

An LG spokesman, however, said this story was false and that no decision has been made on the name of its next big phone. 

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