‘Life’s Good’ challenge

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THERE are a lot of things that come from South Korea besides kalbi, bulkogi and kimchi. South Koreans also manufacture cars, home appliances, machinery, audio/video equipment and cell phones.



Two of the country’s leading cell phone makers are, of course, LG Mobile and Samsung. LG Electronics, the parent company of the former, is a member of the LG conglomerate, a group of companies whose history dates back as far as 1947. As you may have noticed, in the last few years LG cell phones have been gaining traction in the fast lane of the cell phone business.



Granted, each time we are in the market for a new cell phone, we will normally think first of the world’s most popular brands such as Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson. There’s an unmistakable sense of pride in using a cell phone manufactured by one of these top companies. On the other hand, the Korean brands used to be regarded as the cheaper alternatives. “But at LG we are working hard to change this image,” said Andre Tanudjaja, general manager for sales and marketing, LG Mobile Indonesia. Although the company won GSM Association’s tender for affordable 3G cell phones, which was intended to introduce 3G to emerging markets, it doesn’t mean that his company only makes low-end cell phones.



Surely we’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to review almost all the high-end models that LG Mobile has churned out, including the Black Label series Chocolate, Shine, Prada and Viewty. “Increasingly, our high-end models will be a combination of attractive design and powerful technologies,” Andre says.



One of the key technologies that LG Mobile has become very good at is the touch screen. It allows users to operate the devices with the tip of their fingers or a stylus. The technology has been steadily improving from its first introduction in Chocolate, and the new InteractPad user interface — found in the new KF600 — has received a lot of positive comments from early reviewers.



LG Mobile has also been making a lot of progress in the high-end by listening to customers’ feedback. “A strong point of our R&D center in Korea is the attention it pays to every customer’s wish,” he adds. For example, the next batch of Viewtys sold in Indonesia will come with a lens cover. It protects the lens from smudges, and it was missing in the early production units. “Our R&D responded very quickly to customers’ comments by adding the cover,” Andre said.



Another item on Viewty users’ wish list was a physical keyboard. As users, we all love the large screen of this model, but we also want a keypad so that we can enter SMS text faster. “In our next model, we will give you the best of the two worlds. We will combine the large screen and the other features of the Viewty with a sliding keypad,” Andre promised. The model he was referring to is already available in Europe and even in nearby Singapore.



And in case you prefer a smartphone, you’re in for a treat. In the near future, LG Mobile will launch its first smartphone in Indonesia. Using Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 as the operating system, the minimalist KS20 looks more like the Prada phone but provides far more functionality. It’s very lightweight, and there is only one joystick for navigating the menus. The model also offers both HSDPA and Wi-Fi support, and there is a stylus for those who want to scribble some notes.



There will be more color choice, too. “Most of our current top-of-the-line cell phones are in black, but soon there will be other colors as well, such as pink and white,” said John Halim, the company’s product marketing manager. LG Shine is perhaps the only one with a stainless steel finish, but it also now comes in titanium color. “We have a design house in Italy, too,” said John.



If you browse around in one of LG Mobile Indonesia‘s 13 showrooms, you’ll notice that they have a clear naming convention. The “U” in the KU series signifies UMTS. Thus, a KU970 phone, for example, is a 3G cell phone. “M” in KM stands for music, so the cell phone is designed for music playback. A KF model, such as the KF600, emphasizes fashion.



Another striking feature of LG cell phones is its workmanship. Even the low-end models such as KG195, KG200 and KU250 are well-built. “Most of our high-end models are still made in Korea,” explained Andre. LG Mobile has two factories in China, one in Mexico and one in India. Even with so many manufacturing facilities, this vendor is still experiencing a shortage in the supplies of its much craved Viewty.



The key success factor of a cell phone brand, like any other manufactured products that people buy, is the after-sales support. We usually ask how long we will have to wait to get our cell phone repaired. Andre said that, according to his company’s internal data, 88 percent of the repair work on LG phones takes only 1.4 days on average.



“Life’s Good” is the motto of this Korean giant, which actually started as a company with the name Lucky Goldstar. Slowly but surely, its mobile phones are the technological feats that other big players have to reckon with. (Zatni Arbi)



The Jakarta Post, March 18, 2008

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