How LG and Motorola are assailing Samsung

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Since the rise of the original Galaxy S, Samsung has sat atop the Android handset market, furthering its distance over other rivals supporting the operating system over the years. The company’s dominance is particularly impressive when one considers that it is the only successful feature phone company to expand its success in the post-iPhone era.

However, with the company’s smartphone margins declining as smartphone penetration inches higher, the company is seeing reinvigorated competition from two old rival brands from its feature phone days — [company]LG[/company] and [company]Motorola[/company]. How they are taking on the Android giant represents a study in contrasting strategies. While LG has taken many pages from Samsung’s playbook, Motorola has pursued a strategy that might be called the anti-Samsung approach.

LG, of course, has long been a primary [company]Samsung[/company] competitor in both companies’ home country and around the world across a wide array of electronics products for decades. In smartphones, it has taken many of the same steps that Samsung took on its road to market dominance including innovating through hardware components, particularly displays. In the G Flex and G3, the company has introduced curved and quad-HD displays.

LG_G_Watch_500

Lke Samsung, it has put its own skin on Android. And while the LG smartphone family isn’t nearly as broad as Samsung’s, it has continued to keep growing its family of mobile devices with the G Pad and G Watch. Indeed, the second iteration of its Android Wear efforts — the round-faced G Watch R — dramatically improved the lackluster design of the company’s original G Watch launched alongside a similar Samsung effort.

The efforts — along with a big bump in TV advertising focused on succinct messaging — have helped propel LG. According to IDC, LG’s smartphone shipments were up nearly 40 percent while in the third quarter of 2014 while Samsung’s sales dipped eight percent.

Another company that saw growing share in Q3 was Lenovo, which recently completed acquisition of Motorola Mobility, the brand that it plans to carry forward in North America. Unlike Samsung and LG, Motorola hasn’t focused on whizzy curved displays or elaborate skins; indeed, it has not only committed to a “pure Android” experience in its own phones, but seems to have persuaded its partner Verizon to tone down the level of skinning in its Droid phones.

The second generation of Motorola’s flagship — the Moto X — has competitive specs, but hasn’t led the charge in terms of them. However, the company has been making smart moves in a couple of key areas. These include adding value around the core Android experience through gestures, smarter settings and voice activation that still works in more scenarios than Siri under iOS 8 (where the iPhone must be plugged in). Motorola has also been aggressively pursuing the low-end and mid-market with the Moto E and Moto G that tap into the need for lower prices in a non-subsidized carrier landscape.

Verizon Moto X 2014 with Android 5.0

Motorola has also been seeking out new distribution through partnerships. [company]Google[/company], its short-lived parent, chose it as the vendor for the pocket-busting Nexus 6, a one-upping of Apple’s 5.5-inch iPhone 6+ (at least when it comes to screen size). And Motorola’s partnership with Verizon for its Droid lineup is an exclusive one. The carrier’s beastly Droid Turbo beefs up the Moto X with a massive 3900 mAh battery, a waterproof nano-coating that allows for open ports, quick charging, and a 21 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization.

Alas, the company’s lack of traditional strength beyond the Americas has hampered its scale and even a slimmer post-Google Motorola has had difficulty finding profitability. Lenovo should help on both of those fronts.

Neither LG nor Lenovo/Motoroa pose an imminent threat to Samsung, which still commanded a healthy majority of smartphone shipment share of 78 percent in the third quarter according to IDC, Of course, that share is even higher in Android phones and higher still in terms of Android phones that include Google’s services (versus the Android Open Source Platform used by smartphone vendors such as China’s surging Xiaomi and Amazon), But, whether it be trying to beat Samsung at its own game (like LG) or to change the rules (like Motorola), consumers are turning on to alternatives.

8 Comments

Chris Wortman

After having owned Samsung devices most of my life, Over the last year and a half I went through a phase where I tried out all it’s competitors, first the iPhone 5s which couldn’t carry my app purchases over, and the UI underwhelmed me, sold that ad went with the Nexus 5 which blew my mind because it was cheap. I got another LG device, the LG G2, and it had the same crappy screen, washed out with light bleeding… Then there was Motorola… I got the Atrix HD because my Nexus broke, worst phone ever… Never again will I get a Motorola device, then I was handed a Droid Maxx, my life will never be the same… Solid as a brick, good stats, not great but honestly 720p on a 5″ display is more than one can really see… Color reproduction, everything was BETTER than Samsung… I put the Maxx side by side in the store with the S5 and could not see a difference in screen quality, so for me it was awesome… Maybe the S5 was a bit better, but it was nothing to go “oh WOW” about. I was going to get the S5, but I ended up getting the Turbo. When it arrived in the mail I half expected a slightly upgraded Maxx, 1080, etc… no its 2160p screen, makes the s5 look like complete garbage… Ballistic nylon, the phone is solid, moreso than the Maxx. The s5 feels cheap and “moves”, this feels solid and in a class of it’s own, focusing on core features that matter, good camera, good battery, good screen color reproduction. None of the useless garbage I don’t care about like a heartbeat sensor, finger print unlocker, o-touch, tap to unlock, TV remote, etc… the list goes on and on. I just want a phone which keeps a charge for a long time, doesnt have too many features that get in my way while I am trying to work, and just lets me get stuff done. One “feature” I use is Qi charging, come home after a long day at work, set the phone on my night stand, and go to bed. This is why Motorola is winning my heart at the moment. If another company offered the same level of quality without all the extra BS features, I would buy from them. Novel as they are, in day-to-day work related, and even home and family related, they are ultimately useless, and only useful to a select few.

I have been told fingerprint scanning is great, but it has been proven you can unlock an iPhone with a hotdog. Meanwhile, with Google, all I have to do is log into my computer and click a button and BAM my device locks up with a long code of numbers randomly generated which only I can unlock if lost or stolen. This to me is infinitely more useful. Heartbeat scanner, how is this useful? Chances are, if you are a workout buff like me, you want your phone not to be a cheap plastic thing which feels like I could snap it in half if it fell out of my pocket with me in my “run mode”. Also you have a wrist band which tells you your heartbeat at all times, and keeps me from running too fast, to maximize my output, better to run a marathon than a sprint. My phone having this on it, is useless to everyone else too. Tap to unlock wouldn’t need to be there if the buttons weren’t so badly placed on the back… It is a software fix to fix a broken design. O-touch is less than useless… It would be fine to have an inate feature like a remote or a finger print scanner, no this literally if you accidentally swipe it, it controls the interface, so while typing, I don’t use swype type, I tap at 80 mph, my fingers hit this on the back and BAM my apps switch! What’s worse, is there is no discernible way of turning it off, at least there wasn’t in the week I owned the Oppo phone… I didn’t mention them in my list of phones, because it is the most annoying phone I have ever had the misfortune of using…

One thing I miss from my Windows phones of yesteryears past, was physical keyboards, blackberries have them, and should have kept them. If there was a smartphone company which released an Android phone as good as the Droid Turbo with a physical keyboard I would be in love. How I miss the keyboard, my next phone might be a blackberry in a couple of years when I am done with this one…

c

The droid turbos “nano coating” is water resistant, not waterproof. And its a feature derived from the moto x, which already has it.

Mb

The droid turbo does not have optical image stabilization. Wish it did tho.

jjj

LG is likely to drop out of top 10 smartphone makers now that the Nexus 5 is being phased out. They also had the G3 this year and it will be hard to top next year, doable if they focus on shrinking the bezels but we’ll see. At the same time the China price war is spilling over and the China guys are also much faster in developing new devices, anyone that hasn’t planned right might trail behind in specs.Local and regional brands are also getting much better at cutting costs and they are reaching a certain scale. The Indian brands are also reaching a more significant size as the home market has great growth and will become the second biggest market soon(ahead of the US).
As for Moto, they just changed owner so it remains to be seen what their strategy is now.
Funny though how the American press is always targeting Samsung. Apple is a lot more vulnerable when it comes to market share since they never compete on price.
Huawei, Xiaomu, Lenovo should all ship 80 to 120 mil units in 2015, Apple maybe 210 but that growth is on the 1 time event of catching up on screen size, going from toy screen to modern smartphone.
In 2016 Apple would have minimal growth if any while one of the 3 big China guys could catch up. There might be some consolidation too after 2015 with some top 15 phone makers being forced to sell and the buyer maybe becoming quite relevant. As it is Apple’s software ecosystem is suffering outside of the US and when you have bellow 10% share it’s hard to keep up.

But the real story now in mobile, outside Xiaomi – that’s old new , is Meizu. They are quite small but have a stronger brand than many and they never went bellow high end, now they are.The Meizu m1 Note defines the new midrange in China with 5.5 inch 1080p, 8XA53 at 1.7Ghz, 2GB RAM , 16GB NAND, 13 and 5 MP cams for 160$. There are even slightly better offerings from smaller names and there will be better offering from bigger names soon too ( like over 20MP cams – over 20MP cam should be standard in that price range in China soon, 3GB RAM). Next they’ll launch a smaller and cheaper device with similar specs. Sure they are more than 1 year behind Xiaomi and in a more competitive market but they are likely to grow a hell of a lot in 2015 and likely enter top 10 in 2016.
Another 2014 highlight is Asus, seems they shipped some 8 mil units in 2014 and that, for the first time, puts them on the map as a smartphone maker.
Hell, Huawei starting selling the Honor brand in EU and India is a hell of a lot more relevant than LG and Moto.

mike

The question will be what Motorola does now that it’s part of Lenovo. Lenovo doesn’t sell phones in the west so I’m not sure about their update practices there. They are known for not updating the tablets they sell in the west though. They also use a skin on Android which is – well, let’s say less than light. It completely changes some core usage of Android’s layout.
Motorola, under Google, has staked it’s comeback on good hardware at good prices – but also moving quickly on updates and using basically stock Android. There own aditions come in the form of some very usable apps and services. But they are slight, useful, and sit atop or along side Android.
Hopefully Motorola influences Lenovo in these things and not the other way around.

khalifa khalid

well if samsung doesn’t innovate and change its tactict it might be in trouble

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