LG could launch its own mobile payment service as early as November

[This story was written originally for ZDNet on October 15, 2015 reporting from Seoul, South Korea.]

LG could join an already global market crowded by big players such as Google’s Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, perhaps as early as November, according to South Korean media reports.


South Korea takes another step to ActiveX liberation

[This story was written originally for ZDNet on October 15, 2015 reporting from Seoul, South Korea.]

The Korea Trade Network’s development of an ActiveX-free authentication certification program may be the most concrete sign yet of South Korea finally dislodging itself from Internet Explorer.

Samsung affiliates to benefit from demand for electronic components, OLEDs

samsung girls

[This story was written originally for ZDNet on October 6, 2015 reporting from Seoul, South Korea]

Continued strong demand for TVs, tablets, and handsets will see a profit surge over the next two years, according to a Korean report.

South Korean TVs’ market dominance slowly weakening against Chinese rivals

Samsung is focused on the premium end of the TV market as its strategy to stem the torrent of Chinese companies eroding its market share.

Reporters check out Samsung TVs at a trade show.
Reporters check out Samsung TVs at a trade show.

Even though the Chinese makers are nibbling at South Korean market share, those Korean TV makers continue to enjoy dominance at the premium end of the global TV market.

South Korean TV makers are slowly losing ground in the global market in the face of Chinese rivals and faltering TV demand worldwide despite their strategy of keeping the tech edge over Chinese rivals by developing new innovative products.

Let’s look at some numbers. According to the a report in August by market tracker DisplaySearch, the combined share of Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics — the two big South Korean players — came to 34.8 percent in the first half of 2015. That’s a 4.3 percent drop from a year ago. Not much but the question is whether this is an irreversible trend.

In the meantime, Chinese makers saw their combined share soar 4.6 percentage points to 25.9 percent over the cited period.

Samsung’s share dipped to 20.8 percent, while LG’s retreated to 13.9 percent over the same period, the report said.

LG Electronics is mass-producing OLED TVs, first in the world, while Samsung Electronics is focusing on premium models such as LCD-based SUHD TVs.  It is top-notch technology, but the jury is still out on whether that is innovative enough or if even out competing their Chinese rival on the premium end is the right strategy going forward.

TCL Corp.’s share increased to 5.7 percent from 5.1 percent, and its local rival Hisense Co. also bolstered its presence to 5.4 percent of the global share from 4.9 percent.

South Korean companies’ TV sales have slowed over the past year. Samsung sold 24.1 million units in the first six months of 2015, down 15.2 percent from the previous year. LG’s TV sales sank 16 percent on-year to 13.6 million units as of end-June.

In contrast, Chinese makers boosted their combined sales to 25.4 million units from 21.9 million units during that time.

While the financial media has reported that China weakening its currency by letting it float unhindered in currency markets make things harder for Korean makers, that seems a little exaggerated.

From May, the Chinese Yuan decreased in value in relation to the Korean won by about 5 percent to about 5.45 Yuan for 1,000 Korean won from about 5.71 Yuan.

China’s move may further hurt Korean companies that have already been struggling to vie with Japanese firms backed by a cheaper currency, market watchers here said, adding there is a need to draw up fresh strategies that will help tide over the slackening sales.

Sure, a weaker Yuan is a disadvantage for Korean exporters since it undermines their price competitiveness versus Chinese rivals in the global market. But a 5 percent difference over a four month period is not going to make a crucial difference. It is one factor among many at play here.

South Korea to invest $350 million in IoT smart device makers

The government’s investment plans follow South Korean official’s beliefs that the country’s tech industries have been slowing.


LG hopes dual display v10 will win back smartphone buyers

LG Electronics on Thursday launched a new smartphone packing two screens at simultaneous events in Seoul and New York City, which the company hopes will help bolster struggling sales of flagship phones and beat back increased competition from China.

The LG V10 smartphone features an extra ticker-tape style screen above the main 5.7-inch display that can be used for notifications, as well as in multitasking. The second “always-on” screen displays battery level, the weather and time and date _ as well as a slew of little extras , such as emails, texts, missed calls and app activity _ even when the main screen is off.

LG has big plans for the V10, ostensibly the first in a range of V phones from the company as it seeks to boost sales in a difficult market.

But the reaction of analysts in South Korea was cool describing the new features as gimmicky and dismissing the new camera and other features as neat but not be enough to re-position the LG brand from a “a grey part,” an area between premium smartphones and Chinese budget handsets.

“They are focusing on the camera function, right. I don’t think it will impact the market,” said Joo Yong-dong, IT analyst with Hyundai Securities. “And LG Electronics is positioned in a grey part. The premium phone market is dominated by companies like Samsung and, especially Apple. The low end is dominated by many Chinese phones like Huawei and Xiaomi. They are taking market share from LG Electronics especially among low and mid-ranged smartphones. I think LG smartphone business does not look bright.”

LG’s V10 smartphone features premium materials including a stainless steel FRAME and silicone cover while internally it mimics the company’s G4 smartphone that was launched earlier in the year.

LG sales of the G4 were hammered in the first half of this year as compared to its predecessor phone, the G3, according to figure provided by KDB Daewoo Securities.

Sales of the G3 in the 12 month period from its release in June 2014 to May 2015 was about 13.5 million units, and 4.6 million units in the first four months. However, LG sold only 2.1 million G4s from April to July, less than half of how the G3 sold.

However, as the company declined to release official sales results, those numbers are unconfirmed. That said, operating profits from its mobile communications business, which includes LG smartphones, dropped 99.7 percent year-on-year to 200 million won ($166,666).

For any indication that LG is desperately looking to turn things around in Q4 the new v10 one has to look no further that the company’s stock price. LG Electronics stock dropped below the psychologically important level of 50,000 won per share on June 24, and remained there ever since. LG stock has not been that low in more than 10 years.

Will the ‘super phone’ pull LG from the brink?

Analysts in South Korea have questioned whether releasing yet another premium smartphone will pull LG’s mobile division back into the profit zone.

LG Electronics v10 "super premium phone" sports dual displays and two cameras for creative selfies capabilities.
LG Electronics v10 “super premium phone” sports dual displays and two cameras for creative selfies capabilities.