The world’s third-largest mobile phone maker has seen some recent success, posting their first profit in mobile for the first time in seven quarters. Now, they’re hoping to bank on the momentum by trying to partner with Google as a future provider of the Nexus phone.
There’s a certain prestige that comes with having the Nexus name. Google’s own version of a handset that features Android has not had a ton of success with other phone makers, but it’s good for the companies that carry the name because it means the latest and greatest in Android technology.
“We’re heavily in discussions,” Ramchan Woo, head of LG’s smartphone division, told CNET. “We’re working on it.”
They should be working very hard to make it happen as this is a make-or-break time for the company. Google’s purchase of Motorola has other handset makers worried, but most agree that as long as Google continues to partner with them that they won’t have to pull their lines and head towards Windows 8 territory completely.
It makes sense for Google to partner with LG and just about everyone else with the Nexus name as it gives them the purity of the software that is often lost with maker-specific interfaces, but does it make sense for LG? Phones without the Nexus name have proven to sell at higher volumes and be more profitable per phone sold as Samsung and HTC have demonstrated over the last couple of years.
Being a distant third in this sort of race is not necessarily a bad place to be. The mobile industry is growing dramatically worldwide and so far Nexus as a brand has done little more than boost some egos. Still, it’s a statement when Google partners with a company. LG might not be as relevant today as they were before the smartphone revolution, but can the do just fine without the investment or time, energy, and marketing resources?
Is Nexus worth it for them?
LG’s strategy has been working in recent months as they push for more intelligent UIs than native Android. This is their strength and a partnership with Google won’t make them stronger.
They would do better to step out of talks with Google and focus on innovating.
“We know the customer data better than Google,” Woo said.
It’s in the truth of this statement that LG can position itself as having better products than their competitors. Many have complained that the stock Android is too geek-oriented to be as easy to use as an iPhone or Windows phone, so LG and others have had success with their own custom interfaces. The biggest challenge is in the roll out of updates. There’s a gap from the time Google releases its Android updates and when custom UIs can make the adjustment. For LG, this gap has been about 3 months.
If they continue to learn from consumers and produce a better UI than native Android, they’ll have only the update issue with which to contend. This is where they’ll make the biggest splash in the market. People are wanting simpler, more intuitive smartphones.
Some would say that they could have their cake and eat it to, that partnering with Google on a Nexus phone would not take away from their core. This is untrue. Non-geeks, which account for most of us, prefer a stronger interface than native Android. Having the LG name on a Nexus phone can actually hurt the brand because most are fairly unaware of the difference between a custom UI and native Android. So far, native has not received a great response from the public.
Geeks love it. Tech bloggers prefer it. Consumers don’t.
If LG separates themselves by remaining Nexus-agnostic and creating the best UI for the consumer with the wealth of data they have, they will be better-positioned in the future.