Why the LG G4 was so right, but flopped

AndroidPIT LG G4 side view
© NextPit

The LG G4 has not been one of the most popular Android phones, and I’m trying to understand why. LG recently announced its Q3 2015 financial results and revealed that its global smartphone revenues decreased 21 percent compared to the same period last year. With the LG G4 being its current flagship phone, sales of this product are partly to blame. But with so much to offer, where did it all go wrong?

AndroidPIT LG G4 display front
LG G4: the phone that everyone asked for and nobody bought. / © ANDROIDPIT

Iteration rather than innovation

Unlike the Galaxy S6 Edge, which presented a whole new way to use the device, LG (like Sony and HTC) produced more iterative smartphones in 2015. Instead of pursuing revolutionary new tech, the LG G4 followed pretty closely to the LG G3, with a similar QHD display and rear button setup.

Its camera was better, its processor was faster, but it seemed that these incremental upgrades just weren't enough. Apart from the number of customizable rear covers it was a very familiar device. Speaking of those rear covers...

The price of plastic

Most flagship phones in 2015, such as the Xperia Z5, HTC One M9, Samsung Galaxy devices, arrived with a glass and metal design. The use of plastic on the LG G4, while allowing for the often sought after feature of a removable battery, has likely reduced its appeal as a premium product. 

And yet the premium price still existed. A few months later it could be picked up at a far more reasonable price, but at the time it entered the market it was priced at US$599. To the average consumer, this is a lot to pay for a device that's not a "Samsung" and not an iPhone. 

AndroidPIT LG G4 battery cover removed
Even the "premium" leather rear cover of the LG G4 wasn't enough to save it. / © ANDROIDPIT

Chinese competition

LG has been struggling against cheaper competition from the likes of OnePlus, Huawei and Xiaomi which have been selling high volumes of far cheaper devices. And the problem for LG is that there is not a dramatic difference in hardware between the LG G4 and lower-priced competition. 

Former technology editor for The Guardian Charles Arthur suggests that LG’s current profit per device is a mere US$0.016. That’s only 1.6 cents profit per smartphone sale. Smartphone profit margins are extremely tight and most Android manufacturers are struggling to sell their premium devices. But if LG can't sell phones when it is making 1.6 cents profit, something has gone seriously wrong somewhere in the company. 

This is the Android phone which basically does everything you could ask for. It's just a shame nobody wants to buy it. 

That's my thoughts on the LG G4, what are yours? Let me know in the comments. 

Scott Adam Gordon

Scott Adam Gordon

Originally from the UK, Scott graduated in Popular Music Studies at Newcastle University and attributes much of his success there to his beloved Samsung Galaxy S2. His current aim is to write cool things about Android. And he loves it.

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  • Antoine Swans Nov 16, 2015

    I have it and love it! But it's understandable that we have a wave of buyers that wanted a more premium outer product. Maybe it didn't have the flash of the iphone or the seduction of the Samsung Galaxy s6, i just think it wasn't its time. People today change options and opinions over night and trying to keep up with that is a tough job. Remember Samsung galaxy's were the anti iPhone that's what they wanted. Now Samsung's giving them a reason to look over their shoulder! So i'm not a fan of Samsung's or IPhones for that matter but at the end of the day that's what counts. I think what Samsung did was remarkable in many ways! Changing the core consumers mind of what they wanted. I would really be heartbroken if LG was to go that route, the one thing that makes them so great to me is they cater to the one's who don't want to have a phone that looks like every other smartphone on the market, but if they do ill be crushed. I just hope they don't try to give us another virson of an iPhone android style.


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  • hotspring21 Mar 25, 2016 Link to comment

    With Samsung going all-out fashion conscious with non-removable battery and brittle glass back, LG G4 is only choice for someone who wants a smart phone with removable battery and a great camera.
    Seriously, with new LG G4 available in the market now for around $300, it's the best option RIGHT NOW for somoene who want a no-compromise phone with a great camera.

  • Zee D Jan 28, 2016 Link to comment

    OK, let's see if I can humble myself in the midst of some certainly jubilant users of the LG G4.

    Firstly, I've been a Samsung user before and after the Blackberry phase - I HAD to switch over for work purposes - email bla bla you get the idea..

    Coming back to Samsung S6 vs LG G4... I, like many users was looking for an alternative to get a non Samsung phone, for a bit of a difference... So.. I looked at the LG G4, and.... I ended up getting a Samsung S6, which I had to give in after a couple of weeks due to overheating, and a loose home key....

    I do miss having the SD slot - you can imagine backing up everything when giving in the phone...

    Yet, I'm looking forward to getting my new S6 again - Samsung agreed to replace it.

    So why......? It's quite simple. Lack of choice.
    There are 2 type of Samsung S series users..
    1. Those who get the phone because of what's expected from a Samsung Flagship, but are actually somewhat oblivious to it.... and,
    2. those who get the handset because of the features...

    Now, if LG wishes it's handset to be a success it's going to have to do battle in one or both of these arenas. And unfortunately that's where they fail.
    New.. Means different, and different needs to imply better, but this realization needs to come to the consumer only when he/she sees how much better the product actually is compared to what he/she expected, upon his/hers interaction with the product ie. When 1st holding/playing around with the handset.

    This is where the shortfall is, in the LG G4. It's a good phone, but it doesn't wow you, not close to the Samsung S6 anyways. It's antiquated in design, by comparison, and quite a bit larger for those who opt a slimmer, more stylish offering.

    TouchWiz has always got criticism, but the user experience is just a tad better, especially if you're the type of professional who doesn't have the time to download 101 apps. The LG UI is somewhat juvenile, and yes it will appeal to some, but not to others...and this is 1 of those factors which tips the decision the other way. Add the gary, fake metal looking plastic, and it just isn't on the same lever as the Samsung S6 - not in the looks department, anyways.

    So LG needs to revolutionize, and produce more grown up handsets that actually display the great specs lying beneath.

    Move away from those curves, mostly, at least, add some metal accents, maybe go a step further and add a hi tech accent, move that back button to the side, and a fingerprint sensor. Toss that leather of yonder into the garbage. It's outdated. It doesn't match or compliment the businessman in the suit, nor the fashion geek wit his designer jeans and metal watch. Also not everyone wants a 5.5 inch phablet. Stick to 5 inches +5.2 as a maximum and, offer a plus sized version as well. Both with same premium specs. Throw out the 'Beat' versions. It's a waste of development, and the marketing budget.

    • hotspring21 Mar 25, 2016 Link to comment

      I have been Samsung phone user until Note 4. Note 4 will probably be my last Samsung phone due to glass back nonsense and other drawbacks (like extreme non-repairability) with more recent Samsung phones. I don't care about slimness, more important is battery life and durability / repairability of the phone. If I want a smart phone with great camera and removable battery, only choice out there now seems to be LG.

  • J G Dec 3, 2015 Link to comment

    It didn't sell well because sadly the masses have to be told what they want like Apple and Samsung do. Their extensive marketing hype sells phones. The overuse of the term "premium" is irritating at best.

  • An Droid Nov 28, 2015 Link to comment

    This is a 2012 style phone, ala S3, yes with better specs, but in concept I mean. Plastic, SD card slot & removable battery. All the world has moved on, but for a few "Super user" geeks. And therein lies the G4's failure. There are only a few people who value those specs.
    Samsung has moved on and offers stunning design, super fast UFS 2.0 memory, and wireless- and fast charging. Not to forget curved edge screen. The masses rejoiced, and lapped it up. To top it off, Samsung threw in the best screen and camera for good measure, and a chip that didn't overheat, which makes the S6, and S6 edge an unbeatable proposition.

  • Nizam Ismail Nov 22, 2015 Link to comment

    What a brilliant phone I love it. Due to the leather you don't need to get a case which keeps the phone light weight and no bulk and if you get bored change the back.buttons on the back means no buttons on the side and that is brilliant for userbility size is compact for 5.5" that's excellent and I love the leather,sd card, removable battery UI has excellent practicality I just can't see how LG is not doing well I think people are not using the phone to find out how good it is. Believe me I have used all the phones and LGG4 is the best.

  • Zeenes hotornot Nov 18, 2015 Link to comment

    It didn't sell like LG hoped...but flopped? It sold in huge numbers in the US and also did quite well in the UK, as LGs market share has been growing there quite a bit thanks to the G4. I feel like it didn't do as well in Asia though.

    Even in The Netherlands where I live, I've seem them quite a bit. It is definitely more popular than the M9 for example.

  • Terry 675 Nov 17, 2015 Link to comment

    I had the Samsung S6 and the oneplus one before the G4. The Samsung was slightly glitchy and while they both take excellent pictures during the day the LG takes incredible night shots, just amazing. On top of that the software and hardware have been truly flawless unlike both the others . I can't say I am comfortable with the power and volume button on the back but that's a personal taste issue not a fault really. Superb phone and no buyers remorse.

  • philip Nov 16, 2015 Link to comment

    I had the lg g3 and I liked the phone but I didn't love the phone. it had what I needed at the time because I had a Sony z1s and i loved that phone but with a glass body I broke it. when I went to go get another my options were slim so I picked it. now I have the moto x and im happy with it. the main issue I had with the phone was no support and I don't mean upgrading to the newest os either.

  • storm Nov 16, 2015 Link to comment

    The problem is LG itself. Poor history of updates. Weak developer community. Design stupidity like the curved screen. The seam up the middle of the leather back. Because of these factors LG is overpriced in the market. It clearly isn't what people in general want.

    • SpaceMittens101 Nov 17, 2015 Link to comment

      Uhm ... The developer community is understandable but the curved display is a VERY nice feature on the phone. It feels very ergonomic. It's pretty obvious that you never hold a G4 in you hand ever,so don't spread bs.The G4 isnt overprice . You can get it on Amazon for $400. LG is doing alot of things right. It's just that the brand itself is not as popular as Samsung or Apple.

  • Humphrey Brown I. Nov 16, 2015 Link to comment

    I absolutely love my LG G4. It's bright, fast and has all the bells and whistles in can appreciate in a good Android device. May be a little pricey for plastic, I agree there, but I'm more than glad I bought this phone.

    • Scott Adam Gordon Nov 17, 2015 Link to comment

      Yeah that's the thing, I care far more about internal components than the "packaging", so I am happy to compromise with a plastic body for a device which performs so well in most areas :)

    • hotspring21 Mar 25, 2016 Link to comment

      Not pricy any more - you can get brand new LG G4 for around $300. Less expensive than many mid-rangers.

  • hotspring21 Nov 16, 2015 Link to comment

    Perhaps Zenfone 2 has been eating LG's lunch? Zenfone 2 Laser in particular looks like spitting double of LG G4, and has laser focus to boot!! For most people who aren't serious photographers, Zenfone 2 Laser will do the job as stand in for LG G4 and save a nice bundle of money too.

  • Johannes De Beer Nov 16, 2015 Link to comment

    I bought 3 LG G2's the day after the Canadian release. I loved my phone at the fanboy level, but here's what I didn't like:
    1) Lack of third party accesories
    2) Horrible GPS accuracy (Ingress unplayable)
    3) LG Canada stiffing their user base - the only market not to get Lollipop and in general slow or reluctant to fix issues.

    So it's simple: I'll never buy an LG again most likely not even an LG made Nexus. I'm very happy with my Note 5.

  • X. Hdez, Nov 16, 2015 Link to comment

    I bought this phone and I can't be more happy. The screen is excellent the best lcd screen I have seen, personally I prefer this screen to some amoled screens, the colors are more accurate. The battery is really good and the camera is just awesome. I have no complaints about this phone. Ok no fingerprint scanner but the knock knock code is really accurate, it works 98% of the time maybe is not as secure as a fingerprint but is a good option to have. And you are getting removable battery and SD card slot to compensate. Now that the price is lower than I couple of months I hope LG can make some good sales because this phone is a complete package

  • hotspring21 Nov 16, 2015 Link to comment

    For me, physical home button/back/task keys are a must have as well as a good stylus (s-pen). That's what prevented me from getting LG G4. I recently bought (now cheaper) Galaxy Note 4 instead of equivalently priced LG G4. I am not a fan of Note 5 with glass body / no SD card slot/ sealed in battery.

  • Popa Florin Nov 16, 2015 Link to comment

    I come from samsung to lg and i find a better device în lg g4. Why people buy samsung and of course iphone. Because they are well known, because are doing aggressive advertising. That's all...their devices are under lg g4. S edge? A joke...my wife had it. Same bugs everywhere, but for a woman is looking good😀

  • Steen Suurballe Nov 16, 2015 Link to comment

    I have it and love it. Did my research and as the price of the G4 (leather version of cource :-) ) went down plus there was an sale on the G4, I took it.
    Was considering a Nexus 6 but the price/performance of the G4 was the best.

    Further I didnt want a 810 CPU due to the heat issues. and the samsung S6 edge to expensive.

    The plastic design does not bother me as the leather back makes up for its "quality impression" to me.
    Best guess is my next phone will be an 820 equipped G5

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