LG Exits Smartphone Business: What Does it Mean for the North American Market?

It has been widely rumored for a few quarters that LG has been contemplating exiting the smartphone business due to six years of negative operating margins with limited opportunities to reverse the problems. This rumor was confirmed April 5 after a board of directors meeting.

LG has certainly made attempts to change course. It has, multiple times, vacillated between focusing on the higher margin flagship space and the lower price tiers to gain market share and mind share. None of these changes helped the smartphone division recover. Other small missteps hurt competitiveness:

  • LG made a big bet on modular design as the market pivoted to higher compute, video-oriented, and exploding camera capabilities. The large designs with large batteries made the compromised ‘modular battery’ uncompetitive.
  • LG reduced its country support to bring down the number of R&D streams to help profitability. This is difficult in a competitive, scale business.
  • LG also moved more slowly to an ODM model. In addition, it shifted most manufacturing out of South Korea to Vietnam, but cost disadvantages remained.

Some bad luck and increased global smartphone competition were also factors in the LG smartphone business’ decline. Look for LG to focus on further investing in its TV business (content services, TV software, transition to 8K and OLED/NanoCell technologies) and the automotive industry (both infotainment and as auto OEM partner).

Now that the exit is official, what does this mean for the North American market?

  • The North American market purchased 64% of LG’s smartphone volumes. LG remained the solid No. 3 player in the US market. In 2020, it held under 6% market share in US postpaid channels. Its premium devices could not stand up to the marketing bombardment Apple and Samsung bring through the entire life of their devices.
  • Within prepaid, LG has continued to be very competitive. In 2020, LG held 28% market share within US prepaid channels. It only trailed Samsung in prepaid unit sales. Its Stylo 6 sold over two million units. But even with a solid brand name and consistent prepaid unit sales, profitability remained elusive. For complete LG sell-through details for the US and Canada, see North America Online, Offline Monthly Channel Tracker.
  • Besides the almost 14 million smartphones LG sold in the US in 2020, its void will also be felt as a major technology partner to North American and global operators. LG ushered in the first large-volume qwerty devices, adding text messaging to carriers’ bottom line. LG was always first or early with major technology shifts. It was a trusted partner for global operators, bringing early integration of LTE, Wi-Fi calling, carrier aggregation, 5G and mmWave to name a few.
  • Key prepaid channels will be looking to secure a trusted OEM partner to meet the criteria related to price point, quality, lab approval and launch date. These channels include major prepaid operator channels such as Cricket, Boost, Metro and US Cellular, and national retailers such as Walmart, BestBuy and Target. In total, these channels cover over 70 million subscribers. The churn is higher here and the holding periods are much shorter than postpaid.
  • LG’s exit means new opportunity for TCL, HMD Global, Vinsmart, Moto, Samsung and others.
  • LG is expecting to see no new launches and will go into ‘support’ mode in July 2021. Therefore, challengers need to begin winning over LG slots immediately.

For complete details of new opportunities for OEMs looking to win over LG’s lost share in NAM, LATAM, and South Korea, contact

Jeff has 25+ years experience in technology research, business development, competitive intelligence, and business management. Prior to joining Counterpoint Research, Jeff held various research & product development roles at Microsoft, Nokia, Roth Capital Partners, and Gartner. Jeff is a member of many telecom industry organizations including Colorado Wireless Association,, CommNexus, and is a regular speaker at major telecom industry events. He was a 4x NCAA all-American in tennis and is a 12-time finisher of the Hawaii Ironman World Championships.

Apple Snack Pack


Understanding iPhone

Term of Use and Privacy Policy

Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited


In order to access Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited (Company or We hereafter) Web sites, you may be asked to complete a registration form. You are required to provide contact information which is used to enhance the user experience and determine whether you are a paid subscriber or not.
Personal Information When you register on we ask you for personal information. We use this information to provide you with the best advice and highest-quality service as well as with offers that we think are relevant to you. We may also contact you regarding a Web site problem or other customer service-related issues. We do not sell, share or rent personal information about you collected on Company Web sites.

How to unsubscribe and Termination

You may request to terminate your account or unsubscribe to any email subscriptions or mailing lists at any time. In accessing and using this Website, User agrees to comply with all applicable laws and agrees not to take any action that would compromise the security or viability of this Website. The Company may terminate User’s access to this Website at any time for any reason. The terms hereunder regarding Accuracy of Information and Third Party Rights shall survive termination.

Website Content and Copyright

This Website is the property of Counterpoint and is protected by international copyright law and conventions. We grant users the right to access and use the Website, so long as such use is for internal information purposes, and User does not alter, copy, disseminate, redistribute or republish any content or feature of this Website. User acknowledges that access to and use of this Website is subject to these TERMS OF USE and any expanded access or use must be approved in writing by the Company.
– Passwords are for user’s individual use
– Passwords may not be shared with others
– Users may not store documents in shared folders.
– Users may not redistribute documents to non-users unless otherwise stated in their contract terms.

Changes or Updates to the Website

The Company reserves the right to change, update or discontinue any aspect of this Website at any time without notice. Your continued use of the Website after any such change constitutes your agreement to these TERMS OF USE, as modified.
Accuracy of Information: While the information contained on this Website has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, We disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. User assumes sole responsibility for the use it makes of this Website to achieve his/her intended results.

Third Party Links: This Website may contain links to other third party websites, which are provided as additional resources for the convenience of Users. We do not endorse, sponsor or accept any responsibility for these third party websites, User agrees to direct any concerns relating to these third party websites to the relevant website administrator.

Cookies and Tracking

We may monitor how you use our Web sites. It is used solely for purposes of enabling us to provide you with a personalized Web site experience.
This data may also be used in the aggregate, to identify appropriate product offerings and subscription plans.
Cookies may be set in order to identify you and determine your access privileges. Cookies are simply identifiers. You have the ability to delete cookie files from your hard disk drive.