September 18, 2012 10:12 am

LG unveils smartphone fightback

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LG Electronics has unveiled a flagship smartphone as it moves to regain ground lost in the competitive market to rivals including Samsung Electronics and Apple.

The Optimus G will go on sale next week in the South Korean mobile phone maker’s home market for Won1m ($900) before being rolled out in Japan in October and other foreign markets in November.

The company expects “meaningful” sales figures from the device, which boasts the industry’s best hardware features, Park Jong-seok, president of LG’s mobile phone division, told reporters on Tuesday.

LG is sticking to its sales goal of 35m smartphones this year in spite of so far having achieved only about 30 per cent of the target. “We expect sales to increase from the third quarter thanks to the full-on impact of new products,” Mr Park said.

The Optimus G, which has a 4.7-inch screen, runs on Google’s Android operating system and is powered by Qualcomm’s quad-core processor. It offers faster internet connections and will enable the use of multiple functions simultaneously.

Analysts expect its main rivals to be Motorola’s Droid Razr, the first model the company has unveiled since being acquired by Google, and Nokia’s flagship Lumia 920, which runs on the latest Windows Phone operating system.

LG is pinning its hopes on its strength in next-generation LTE technology for its fightback in the fast-changing smartphone market.

The company was late to the game, and was the eighth-largest smartphone maker as of the second quarter with just a 5.8 per cent global market share, according to Daishin Securities. That is far behind rivals such as Samsung, with 34.6 per cent, and Apple, which has 17.8 per cent of the market, according to market researcher Strategy Analytics.

Analysts expect that LG will sell 26m-27m smartphones this year. The Optimus G will contribute to an estimated 10.6 per cent year-on-year increase in fourth-quarter revenue at LG’s handset business, according to Dongbu Securities. LG’s mobile division recorded an operating loss of $49.5m in the second quarter, its fifth loss in the past seven quarters, as revenue dropped by an annual 28.6 per cent.

LG shares edged up 0.79 per cent to Won76,300 on Tuesday, but hopes for a turnround in its mobile business have lifted them 20 per cent over the past three months. The benchmark Kospi index has risen 7.8 per cent over that period.

Park Kang-ho, an analyst at Daishin Securities, said: “In terms of technology and hardware, the Optimus G looks as good as the iPhone 5 or the Galaxy S III but it will still be difficult for LG to steal market share from Apple and Samsung because of its low brand image.”

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