Beyond BlackBerry: Do Sony, LG, and HTC face extinction too?

Now that BlackBerry has ceased production, could Sony, LG, and HTC join the Canadian company? We unpack which OEMs are near extinction!

As of this month, BlackBerry has officially hung up its coat and has left the smartphone world. While TCL Communications (Alcatel to most people) will continue to produce new smartphones bearing the BlackBerry moniker, the Canadian company itself is now utterly divorced from hardware. Just shy of its third Android phone, BlackBerry has had to quit the game before it truly begun. That begs the question: What other OEMs are facing extinction?
The answer is, unfortunately, a good few. While the emergence of Android pushed numerous manufacturers into a modern day space race, the sad reality is that only a few have managed to craft a presence beyond the stars; Samsung’s Galaxy range is a great example of this – when they’re not going supernova, that is.
Read: Samsung will limit the Galaxy Note 7‘s battery life to prevent further explosions
Despite hiccups along the way, Samsung have executed a brilliant strategy – the South Korean company made Android their own from the get-go – distancing its look and feel from every other stock Android device that other OEMs have released – and successfully built a product ladder that saturated the market with a litany of cheap but effective devices which simultaneously kept everyone looking up at the likes of the Galaxy S and Note range.

“…only a few have managed to craft a presence beyond the stars; Samsung’s Galaxy range is a great example of this – when they’re not going supernova, that is.”

Other OEMs haven’t been as lucky. LG rode in on a white horse in the form of the LG G2, and achieved critical success with the LG G3 and LG G4. However, that success hasn’t correlated to financial stability, and the company’s low-end offerings have usually failed to impress.
Sony, similarly, have done premium phones well – but have continuously succeeded in placing their best phones out of reach and strapping them with software problems. HTC have produced some of the best Android flagships around, yet no-one seems interested in buying them.
Could these three OEMs soon face the same failure BlackBerry has had? Is there any hope for either of these three companies to continue producing Android devices? Let’s get to it and find out!

Beyond BlackBerry: Sony, LG, and HTC face extinction too
Were you really going to buy all of these accessories?

LG: When Life Was Good

LG’s fate seems to be on the wall. Following from the dismal commercial reception the flagship G5 received this year, the company proceeded to announce the V20 – the smartphone its 2016 flagship arguably should have been.
The LG G5 was an interesting idea – our Editor deemed it the most interesting phone in years before revoking that honor in favour of the Moto Z – but failed to entice consumers to purchase the phone and its range of modular accessories. While the V20 looks to be an equitable performance flagship, the company executed a launch just one day before the iPhone 7 was announced – effectively killing any press buzz.

“Following from the dismal commercial reception the flagship G5 received this year, the company proceeded to announce the V20 – the smartphone its 2016 flagship arguably should have been.”

At the top level, LG has an expensive modular phone which only becomes more pricey when accessories are added. There are a few successes at its mid-range – its Stylus 2 handset is fantastic fare for everyone not interested in a Galaxy Note – yet, in 2016, we lack the ‘Beat’ model that made the company’s mini LG G4 model so fantastic.
Towards the bottom end, we continue to be saturated with the company’s cheaper devices – such as the Leon – which lacks the alluring brand name the likes of the Samsung Galaxy J1 or even cheaper handsets can offer. Further, there’s a Frankensteinian experiment north of that mark, where if you can’t afford all the pieces of a flagship phone, you can pick one at time with the X series. As we said of the LG X Cam, there’s good to that proposition – but also a fair amount of bad and ugly.
LG lacks a focused flagship strategy which has resulted in mass firings after the G5 tanked; that alone places LG on our worry and watch list. We’d love for the company to survive, as we’ve come to love many of its phones – but without a surefire hit, it may sink once and for all.

Beyond BlackBerry: Sony, LG, and HTC face extinction too
Sexy, but just a little too expensive.

Sony: Make Believe (That We’re Making A Profit)

Before we begin, let’s get one thing straight: Sony really, really used to make lovely flagship phones. The Xperia Z line – in particular the Z3 and Z5 standard and Compact range – were some of our favourite devices to review.
Then Sony had the great idea to kill that union in its crib and came out with the Xperia X – a $700 USD which seems to underperform in every department. To rectify that, the company launched its third flagship this year – the Xperia XZ.
Quick translation? Too many flagship phones, too often, for too much money. And while there was some brilliance going on at the top – and maybe a little bit of madness too – that offering has never extended to Sony’s budget phones. The M4 and M5 Aqua, while equitable, are too expensive to prove competitive mid-range devices.
At the bottom Sony continues to slug it out with its E5 lineup, which is woefully uninspiring beyond the promise of a great battery life. There’s also the fact that despite releasing phones every six months, Sony somehow continues to lag behind in releasing new devices with the latest version of Android.

“Quick translation? Too many flagship phones, too often, for too much money.”

Unless Sony can lower the price of its flagship offerings and carve out a convincing niche at its lower end, the company risks burning itself out in a work-induced phone. As much as we love Sony flagships, we’d actually be fine for the company to take a year’s sabbatical and find its feet. Until then, the company risks hammering out new smartphones that a crowd of none will buy.

Beyond BlackBerry: Sony, LG, and HTC face extinction too
Shout it out loud, HTC.

HTC: Quietly Brilliant (And That’s The Problem)

Some phone manufacturers you just want to shake – and HTC, we think, deserves a good throttle. HTC executes flagship phones which often bring as much promise as disappointments; we loved the HTC One A9‘s build quality and handling of Android, but despised its camera.

“Where HTC’s flagships failed, the Vive might succeed.”

While the new HTC 10 looks set to impress, we’re left to pin our hopes on the more accessible Desire 10, which brings one of the most attractive form factors we’ve seen in a long, long time. However, we have to keep our noses close to reality; the fact of the matter is that HTC couldn’t even afford to host a launch event for its new mid-ranger.
In fact, HTC seem to be increasingly turning away from the mobile market and towards another emerging niche – the virtual reality headset market. Where HTC’s flagships failed, the Vive might succeed.
Overall, it’d be disappointing to see HTC leave the market. While the company has the added strength of producing this year’s Nexus (or Pixel) handsets and the legacy of producing some of the first great Android phones, it would seem there’s little hope to live on. A shame, really – had HTC been a bit more bold about its brilliance, things might have been different.
Read: Google‘s Nexus devices may be no more; welcome to the era of Pixel

Have your say!

What are your thoughts? Could OEMs such as Sony, LG, or HTC meet with the same catastrophic failure BlackBerry faces? What other OEMs could soon bite the dust? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA

  1. The smartphone race is a sad one. Genius is not always rewarded, at least not financially. Hence Samsung is still on top. I marvel when people hold on to the underperforming, uninspired and bad looking Samsung midrangers, all in the name of the Galaxy.

    1. I think the Galaxy A series upwards looks attractive, but I agree with your sentiment that anything below that has an unfortunate tendency to look like an ugly duckling.
      If anything, I think Samsung can be commended for a good strategy in terms of market saturation – they’ve covered their bases well and customers tend to migrate up the range as a result. That being said, I’ve often felt better deals at the low end of the market can be found elsewhere 🙂

  2. LG has been doomed for failure for a while. Their handsets are ugly and the interface, juvenile. Serves them right for not doing enough market research. The design team needs to be shot as well… Or sent back to Anesthetics School.
    Sony, on the other hand, somehow manages to produce new models which, perform worse than the old ones. Has anyone ever tried to focus the camera on a Z5 recently…? I literally could not get rid of the blur of the shot taken. When you release quality like that, and expect the consumer to pay more for it, than a handset which actually works, you deserve the failure you get dished out to you.

    1. I felt LG took a major step backwards with the G5; the design of the G4 and G4 Beat really grew on me. Conversely, I feel their interface has actually improved, but considering its origin aboard the likes of the LG G2, the bar wasn’t too high to begin with.
      I really enjoyed the Z5’s camera (at the time of review, it was running Lollipop) but as we’ve had with our two in house Xperia Z1 models, Android upgrades tend to shatter Sony’s glass house – especially in terms of optics.
      I feel LG and Sony actually have a few lessons to learn from one another; LG needs to study Sony’s physical design (and perhaps take things in a slightly less boring direction) while Sony could benefit from LG’s tact in the mid-range. Still, I feel it might be too late to absorb these lessons while Chinese marques such as Huawei and Xiaomi execute better value for money in the South African market.

Comments are closed.