LG doesn't need an absolute hit, but it does need to dramatically limit its mistakes.
2017 was a big year of improvement for LG, even though it didn't translate into massively improved sales. After the dreadful G5 and extremely niche V20 in 2016, it rebounded to make the very good and severely under-appreciated G6 and V30. They were both good phones that were not only huge improvements over their predecessors but also just solid offerings compared to the rest of the market.
The problem, as ever, was getting absolutely steamrolled by the launch of the Samsung's latest phones — in this case, the Galaxy S8, S8+ and Note 8. Everything LG did with its G6 launch was utterly flatted by the Galaxy S8, and then the same fate befell the V30 launching just a week after the Galaxy Note 8.
With the upcoming LG G7 ThinQ (henceforth referred to as just "LG G7," for my sanity), LG has the opportunity to launch its phone comfortably in its own little bubble. The Galaxy S9 hype has slowed; the Huawei P20 is out the door; we don't have any concrete info on the HTC U12 launch. The OnePlus 6 launch is likely to be the only thing within a couple weeks of LG's announcement on May 2.
With those structural obstacles out of the way, LG has a good window to launch its latest flagship. Now it just needs to execute on its own launch to keep this from being a repeat of 2017.
If the LG G6 and V30 were any indications, the G7 will be a good phone. LG's hardware has improved a lot in the last generation. The company has generally stayed away from gimmicks and kept a full feature set. We expect the phone will have top-notch specs, a good display (perhaps using new MLCD+ technology) and a focus on audio quality. LG has always had a good camera story, and I'm not worried about that continuing this year. The software continues to be a weak point, but not a deal breaker, and I can only hope LG manages to improve in that respect.
So yes, the phone should be good. It may even be great. But I'm not worried about the phone itself as a product — I'm worried about how LG can dramatically reduce or eliminate its launch struggles, and give the G7 a chance in the market.
1) Tighten up the launch timeline
First and foremost, LG must get the launch timing right. It was confident enough to announce weeks ahead of time that the G7 will be announced on May 2. Now, how long will we have to wait after that for it to actually be in stores?
The LG G6 was announced on February 26, and didn't launch in the U.S. until April 7, over five weeks later. The LG V30 launched on August 31, and took a month to hit U.S. stores — September 28. The LG G7 has to do better here. We need to see pre-orders almost immediately after the announcement, and a retail launch within a couple weeks, for LG to reasonably expect people to ride the hype of its launch into early sales.
2) The price has to be right
None of the rest of this matters much if LG doesn't get the pricing right on the G7 — and that means, unfortunately for LG, undercutting the competition a bit. LG pretty quickly realized after the Galaxy S8 launch that it'd need to drop the price of the G6 to start competing in a lower price bracket. It didn't take long before the G6 could be had for $499, and that's where it stayed throughout most of the year. The V30, on the other hand, has kept a high price in the range of $750-850 even as the new Galaxy S9 and S9+ are on the scene and eating its lunch.
When it comes to the G7, it's going to be imperative for LG to be priced more like the Galaxy S9, about $720, rather than the Galaxy S9+ at $850. I'm sure the G7 will be a fine phone, but people aren't clamoring for a new LG flagship in the same way they are a Samsung one — and one way to get people in the door is to just be downright cheaper with the same type of experience. $699 is only $20 less than the Galaxy S9, but having that price start with $6__ sure would be great for LG.
3) Stop with the variants
It's already difficult enough for LG to garner public attention to its phone launches, and then it goes on and makes them even more confusing by releasing different regional variants and special editions in the weeks and months after. Phones with different hardware features and internal specs just confuse people, and it's not a good look. With the LG G7, I'd love to see LG contain itself solely to the original launch device and perhaps some other color options. No LG G7+ or LG G7S or any of that nonsense — just release the phone, making it the same (within reason) around the world, and don't let the pressure of carriers around the world dictate exclusive versions.
Part of this frustration with different variants is also rooted in pricing. The G6 and V30 had (and in many cases still have) widely different prices between carriers and regions. Today you can buy a V30 from AT&T for $749 but the same phone is $840 from Verizon — and Sprint has the 128GB LG V30+ for $949. It's all confusing, and even though customers don't really cross-shop between carriers much they do know when they feel like they're getting a bad deal.
We'll see how LG plans to do this all when it announces the phone on May 2. Centering the launch around an event in New York City gives me hope that LG is taking things seriously — now we just need to see the execution.