Samsung’s Galaxy S9 expected at MWC, but flagship phones from LG may be MIA

AT&T is among the carriers that sell LG's latest flagship, the G6. (AT&T)

According to a series of new reports, smartphone maker LG is retooling its phone strategy and may not offer much in the way of new hardware at this year’s Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. That’s noteworthy considering LG is the third largest smartphone vendor in the United States.

However, while LG may sit on the sidelines at this year’s MWC, Samsung likely won’t. According to reports, the company plans to keep up its annual schedule of flagship smartphone releases and will announce its Galaxy S9 at the event.

And Samsung likely won’t be alone. Sony, Motorola’s Lenovo and others are expected to also release new devices at MWC.

As for LG, according to The Investor, the company’s CEO has ordered a revision of the company’s upcoming flagship device and as a result will likely push back the launch of the device to April. Citing an unnamed source, the publication noted the company wasn’t able to find a strong selling point for the device.

To be clear though, it’s unlikely the company would be able to discover a hardware-based selling point and implement it in just a few months, considering the time it takes to design and build smartphones.

Nonetheless, LG’s smartphone difficulties are clear. As noted by Forbes, LG’s mobile business has lost nearly $2 billion in the past three years. And at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the company’s CEO Cho Sung-jin said that “we will unveil new smartphones when it is needed. But we will not launch it just because other rivals do.”

“The yearly rhythm is breaking down,” noted the analysts at CCS Insight, who closely track the world’s smartphone market. “LG is effectively sending a message that the upgrade from its G6 phone to the G7 will be marginal, with a risk that demand will be soft. There's a need for more revolutionary features to convince dedicated LG customers and others to upgrade. The phone-maker still sells a lot of handsets, but the volumes are coming in at the lower end of the market. LG's high-margin G and V series are stuck in a tough spot.”

Added CCS: “While Apple and Samsung each have eager users and investors, LG needs to refresh its mobile strategy rather than its mobile portfolio.”

LG’s troubles are of particular concern to U.S. players. As noted by Counterpoint Research, LG was the nation’s third-largest smartphone vendor in the second quarter of last year, with around 15% of the market, behind leaders Samsung and Apple. A withdrawal from the hotly contested space could well pave the way for others—such as Motorola and Alcatel—to move more aggressively in the U.S. smartphone market.

Indeed, according to reports, Sony has scheduled a press event at MWC where it may well introduce more Xperia branded phones. And Motorola’s Lenovo may too release new products at the show.

Already, Motorola, Sony, Alcatel and others announced select products at the recent CES show.