LG's OLED TVs are keeping the company afloat, even as smartphone sales struggle

(Image credit: LG)

LG Electronics, seller of the hugely popular LG CX OLED, has reported its 2020 financial results, and there are some interesting points to delve into, regarding the success of certain technologies over others.

2020 was something of a turning point for the company, especially in the home entertainment space. Specifically, the LG Home Entertainment Company arm boasted a 22.9% increase in operating profit over the previous year, thanks in no small part to the success of its OLED TV range.

The report cites "increased sales in North America and Europe", no small feat given the amount of competition around home televisions. Sony, Panasonic and Philips are all in the OLED game too, even as Samsung and TCL look to compete with differing QLED and Mini LED technology.

The LG CX OLED, though, was our top pick of OLED sets in 2020, and was undoubtedly one of the most popular televisions on sale last year – helped by the fact that LG kept aggressively cutting the TV's price at its flagship size. In fact, at one point the 55-inch model for the CX was even cheaper than the new 48-inch OLED size that was introduced to the range last year.

With a 48-inch size coming to more sets in the 2021 LG TV range, a new 83-inch size coming to the C1 (the CX's successor), and a confirmed 42-inch OLED panel size being manufactured by LG Display, this trend towards more variety and flexibility in OLED sizing is only going to continue.

Let's not forget that LG is introducing a budget A1 OLED model, which could see the cost of an entry-level OLED drop to unseen levels (for LG, at least – the recent Vizio OLED that launched in the US has been seen on sale at an astonishing $899 price).

Phoning it in

It's important to remember that LG Display and LG Electronics are distinct entities, as confusing as that can be; the former makes and supplies the panels used in the devices made and sold by the latter. But the success of one is tied to the other for that reason, and we saw an incredible recovery by LG Display in the latter half of 2020, with a net profit in the year's third-quarter marking the first time the company had been in the black since 2018.

Away from TVs, though, it's a different story; LG's smartphone arm has reported a 4.9% year-on-year increase in smartphone sales in the last quarter of 2020, compared to the same time the year before, but with a sudden 9.2% drop from the previous quarter. The report cites "shortages of 4G chipsets and sluggish sales of premium smartphones in overseas markets".

We recently heard that LG was considering getting out of the mobile phone business for good – something that will no doubt become more likely if its upcoming LG Rollable phone doesn't make a splash.

LG's automotive arm also reported continued losses, while LG's Business Solutions arm saw a drop in profits due to increased "global logistic costs", despite "growth for IT products related to remote working and online learning."

Overall, though, the company seems to be in good financial health, and the improvements coming to its 2021 OLEDs only look set to continue that trend.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.