(Pocket-lint) – LG has a long history with phones and it’s a history that has been peppered with some great successes. LG has turned heads, moving on new technologies and given us some of the iconic devices over the past couple of decades.
On 5 April 2021, LG announced that it was withdrawing from the smartphone market to focus its efforts in other areas.
LG was a big player in the feature phone market, a pioneer in design, with a number of high-profile partnerships and a company than never failed to be experimental.
Here’s a history of some of LG’s most important phones.
The LG Chocolate was the most refined phone of its time.The LG KG800 Chocolate was the most refined phone of its time. It put design first, from the unboxing experience through to the product itself.
In a world dominated by uninspiring flip and candybar phones, the LG Chocolate was a cut above the rest and an instant icon. With the likes of Coleen Rooney seen sporting one soon after its 2006 launch, this slider gave us a glimpse at phones as a lifestyle accessory.
The KG800 wasn’t the only Chocolate model, with a 2009 Chocolate named phone that looked to bring us smartphone skills, again focusing on design.
Pairing fashion with phones resulted in the LG Prada.
LG’s reputation was only cemented with a high-profile paring with the Prada fashion brand, resulting in the LG Prada, or KE850.
The LG Prada might be the only phone you remember, but phones were fashion at this point: there was Dolce & Gabbana working with Motorola, Julian McDonald with Sony Ericsson and Cath Kidston designs on Nokia phones.
Didn’t this all work out well?
The LG Prada, launched in 2007 was a touchscreen device, ditching most of the buttons and very much embracing the future we now enjoy.
A classic of the genre with a QWERTY keyboard.
The LG KS360 might not stand out among the members of this list, but it was an area where LG excellent: the side slider.
The KS360 was a refreshing phone, fitting a QWERTY keyboard so it could focus on the masses of messaging that was critical to life in 2008, looking to challenge the offering from BlackBerry.
The LG GW520 followed it up, refining the experience in smartphone style, before in 2010 we got a much more important side slider, the LG GW620 – LG’s first Android phone. Also called the InTouch Max. This was to dictate LG’s move into Android smartphone in the future – and it all started with the LG KS360.
LG’s attempt to create its own smartphone platform and interface.
The LG Arena, the KM900 is a significant device for LG because its 2009 launch coincided with the launch of another really important phone – the HTC Magic or Google G2.
The year was 2009 and the LG Arena was LG’s chance to solidify its own platform and S-Class user experience.
It was a great phone too, offering many of the connected features you’d expect, but questionable support in the face of BlackBerry, iPhone and dominant Symbian phones.
Although Android wasn’t a huge deal at the time, we had a lingering feeling that Google’s Android would be the next big thing.
And indeed it was.
The LG GD900 saw LG exploring alternative design in phones, continuing a trend that LG was known for.
With a clear panel that was back illuminated to show the touch controls, it was like something out of a sci-fi movie.
It was also a smartphone of sorts, using LG’s S-Class interface, but ultimately, touchscreens were taking over and the Crystal was something of a novelty.
LG Optimus 3D
A 3D phone with a 3D screen was a certain novelty.
In 2011 the world was 3D crazy and LG appeared with a 3D phone. Having moved to offering 3D TVs – and an ecosystem of devices to support 3D entertainment in the home – the LG Optimus 3D really gave us the sense that LG was using its experience from other areas of its business.
With a pair of lenses on the rear of the phone, it could capture 3D content and display it on the screen without the need for glasses. Not all of the phone was in 3D, that was reserved for photos, videos and games, with some UI elements in 3D too.
Ultimately, however, we all know where 3D went – but the idea of putting multiple cameras on the back of phones stuck – as did the massive size.
LG had a lot of Optimus branded phones, peaking with the Optimus G in 2013, which launched the subsequent LG G series.
Google Nexus 4
The first of two Nexus phones from LG.
That’s right. It wasn’t a LG branded phone, but a Nexus, part of the elite Android offering. Launched in 2012, the Nexus 4 and the subsequent Nexus 5 were both manufactured by LG but came with pure Android.
Sure, LG followed in the footsteps of the Samsung-built Galaxy Nexus, but the Nexus 4 helped cement the idea that Android was better without all the manufacturer customisations that were layered over the top.
LG’s tinkering with the UI can be seen with one of the negatives of its Android programme.
LG G Flex
The forebear of folding phones.
With the new G series as flagship phones, LG was keen to continue what the Optimus 3D had started and showcase LG’s skill with displays, or OLED displays to be precise.
The LG G Flex was a curved phone with the highlight being that it used a flexible OLED panel. That meant you could bend the phone a little without it getting damaged.
It was great fun and a great showcase of LG’s skill both in design and manufacture – and with folding phones on the agenda in the 2020s, the LG Flex is an important piece of that history.
Leather clad with a great display, the LG G4 was a great phone.
The LG G4 followed a number of successful LG G series flagships which were seriously good Android phones. But the G4 was different because there was a model with a leather back.
The display was incredible with a Quad HD resolution, but there was something interesting. LG used a slightly older Snapdragon 808, while rivals were using the newer Snapdragon 810. It was a curiosity that LG wouldn’t use the latest hardware and would give critics something to, well, criticise.
That aside, the LG G4 is probably the pinnacle of LG Android phones in 2015, because after this, LG’s next gamble didn’t really pay off.
LG G5 and friends
A moldular gamble that launched wide-angle cameras.
Launched in 2016, the LG G5 was modular.
Rather than just have one phone, a range of accessories was designed to expand the options it offered. There was a camera module with a boosted battery, a B&O Play attachment to boost the audio offering – as well as a 360 degree cam and a VR headset.
Perhaps more important was the fact that LG had added an ultra-wide camera to the phone as a permanent fixture – something that’s been widely adopted across the rest of the industry since.
The LG G5 wasn’t a huge success however, and the modules little more than a distraction, begging the question of why those features weren’t just built in.
Better sound and a bigger battery were to come in the V series that LG pitched at “creatives” but splitting the flagship phones only created confusion.
LG G6 and beyond
The LG G6 marked a slow decline into predictable updates.
What followed was a two tier strategy from LG, with G series flagships often bettered by V series models which were often technically better.
That wasn’t the end of good LG phones, but Samsung’s dominance over Android was by now well established, with cheaper challengers coming from China – notably the alternatives offered by Huawei and newcomers like OnePlus.
LG drifted through a number of G7 and G8 versions, attempting to stir up interest with dual screen models, while also getting more experimental with it’s Explorer phones – the LG Wing feeling like a forlorn hope.
LG’s contribution to smartphones will be missed. There have been some great characters in the mix and some important moments over the past two decades.
Writing by Chris Hall.