More smartphone manufacturers should rethink their release cycles

At this year’s CES, we learned about a disruption to our annual smartphone release expectations. LG, which is usually one of the first out the gate with a new G-series flagship, has put the brakes on the way that its mobile division does things. This is rather unheard of from a major smartphone player. Being a fan of LG phones, part of me is disappointed that we won’t know what the manufacturer is up for a while, but more of me is intrigued about what it will end up meaning.

I’m sure that other Android enthusiasts no longer feel nearly the same excitement we used to at new smartphone releases. I adored the era when new releases brought on leaps in display resolution, camera quality, processing speed, and battery capacity. But for the most part, all of these things have gotten as good as they need to. Every smartphone update now is very iterative, with minor tweaks to what’s come before. Take the Galaxy S8 for example. The only thing really different from the S7 was the decreased bezel. And judging from the Galaxy S9 leaks, there’s going to be even less different.

Alleged Galaxy S9 retail box leak via reddit.

And this doesn’t just apply to Samsung. The same thing goes for Apple (iPhone 7 -> iPhone 8), Sony (Xperia Z5 -> Xperia XZ1), Motorola (Z Force -> Z2 Force), OnePlus (OnePlus 3 -> OnePlus 5), etc. LG doesn’t necessarily fall in the same camp, because of the experimental (and failed) G5 that was reworked to the much different G6. But that’s really it playing catch-up.

Sure, LG’s decision to delay its next major smartphone release appears to be mostly driven by the inability of its flagship phones to secure financial success, but I can’t help but read the company’s statement on the matter as a deeper implication. In a report by The Investor, LG’s CEO, Jo Seong-jin, said,

We will unveil new smartphones when it is needed. But we will not launch it just because other rivals do.

This statement from LG really resonates with me and how I feel about smartphone releases as of late. It’s something that needed to be said. It feels like most smartphone manufacturers are just throwing a new smartphone out there because it’s the time to rather than doing so with merit. Or even worse, because another is doing it. There’s no more reason for a strict, annual release schedule in smartphones. Manufacturers should take whatever time they need to release something worthy of a release.

However, the reality is that money drives everything. As long as we keep buying in droves each year, companies won’t think twice about their ways. LG’s mobile division has been losing out year-over-year, hence, why it is calling a time out. Also according to the report: “The internal speculation is that the company hasn’t been able to find a strong selling point for the G7 smartphone,” which suggests that the G7 was shaping up to be another typical iterative update. And we can certainly understand LG’s reservations – if the formula didn’t work before then why would now be any different.

LG’s most recent flagship, V30, shown. Both it and the G6 were well-made smartphones but middling in sales.

I love new smartphones as much as the next Android addict, but I can’t help reflect on that in actuality, my Note 8 brought me minimal value from the S7 Edge and Note 7 (before I had to return it). I also had the Pixel 2 XL and LG V30 and felt the same way with regard to their predecessors. It would be hard to swallow at first, but I would prefer companies to extend their development times in order to incorporate more changes and/or new technologies. Then when a new smartphone does drop, it will be sincerely exciting again, like in the good ‘ol days.

Do you agree? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

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