Is 3D the golden ticket for LG?

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LG’s long-awaited smartphone comeback hinges on a technology that could be a hit or miss completely. Michael House asks the industry which way it will go

LG has always been a leading name in the electronics world, particularly among innovative technologies such as 3D TV. But for some reason that reputation hasn’t ever been maintained when it comes to its mobile business.

Its successes appear to come in waves without leveraging the consistency it may have achieved with various product launches over the years. And it must be said, the Korean manufacturer has achieved very credible results in the past.

The LG Cookie, an affordable sub-£100 touchscreen feature-phone launched in 2009, went on to sell more than 10 million units. The high-end touchscreen Viewty also sold five million in the same year.

Before that, in 2005, the high-end LG Chocolate (VX8500) handset sold in excess  of 15 million units in the space of two years. Despite that, the device has been subjected to heavy criticism due to technical faults, which some claim has tarnished its reputation.

Total sales remain credible. More than 100 million units were sold in 2010, but the figure represents a 25 per cent drop on the previous year. A lack of mid- to high-end smartphone handsets, particularly in the UK, has seen the brand almost disappear from the high street and from consumers’ eyes.

According to the B2B dealers we spoke with, the manufacturer has to date failed  to launch a single device that appeals to business customers, effectively removing itself from this channel.

Fighting back

But LG is making moves to re-establish itself as a high-end player for both consumers and businesses alike.

Its hopes at present are being pinned on the Optimus 3D, which is due to be launched this month. It’s the first handset to include 3D technology.

The phone, which does not require the user to wear 3D glasses, includes a 4.3-inch 3D screen, runs o the Android 2.2 operating system and comes with a five-megapixel dual-lens camera. It also includes 8GB of internal memory and an HDMI port to view photo and video content on a TV screen.

“Impressive and innovative” are some of the positive words used to describe it, while some of the nay-sayers have suggested it’s too little, too late, and that a “gimmick” like 3D will not help in the long-term.

The 3D concept has been around for some time. So long, history bu s might know that a 3D film, recorded and produced by Adolf Hitler’s propaganda team in 1936, was recently discovered. It’s since made a comeback of sorts – there has been a big push in the TV and film industries for 3D. Billions have been invested in the manufacture of 3D home-cinema sets and almost as much invested in the production of blockbuster films.

Despite this, the figures and the plans from the big names tell a mixed story. Best Buy, the biggest retailer in the US, announced in December last year that sales of 3D TVs had been poorer than expected, which ultimately led to the company posting disappointing financial results for that period.

This has not deterred other manufacturers pushing ahead with 3D innovation HTC has since announced it will launch a 3D device, the Evo, next month providing LG with an instant rival from a company going from strength to strength.

Apple was granted a 3D patent in December last year, which would mean theoretically that they would be a safe bet to roll out some form of product bearing this technology.

Mobile News asked the channel its views on LG and whether 3D technology can provide the Korean giant with the boost it needs.

Full article in Mobile News issue 493 (July 18, 2011).

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