10 companies that hung up on the mobile phone business

Rising competition and plummeting sales led many former market leaders to seek new business streams

As technology advances and competition intensifies in the mobile phone industry, many manufacturers who were once major players have either shrank their operations to cut losses or left the business entirely.

Some companies chose to focus on their core businesses while others pivoted to emerging businesses such as electric vehicles and connected devices.

The National looks at 10 global companies that were once titans of the phone industry but gradually opted out of it.

Blackberry

Ontario-based Blackberry stopped making phones in 2016 almost 16 years after launching the Blackberry 957, its first phone. It licensed the brand and rights to Chinese manufacturer TCL and shifted its focus to software.

The company, which was famous among Qwerty keyboard loyalists, saw sales decline as more consumers opted for touchscreen phones offered by Apple, Huawei and Samsung.

In August last year, it teamed up with Foxconn-owned FIH Mobile and Texas-based technology start-up, OnwardMobility, with an intention to re-enter the market. It is planning to launch a 5G-enabled smartphone in the first half of this year.

Nokia

Finnish company Nokia sold its smartphone business to Microsoft in 2013, which the American technology company continued to operate under the Lumia brand. However, Nokia bought back the business in 2016, before handing management over to Finland’s HMD.

HMD has a 10-year exclusive licence from Nokia to run its smartphone business. It is responsible for design, research and development, manufacturing, selling and after-sales service of Nokia devices.

HMD, which primarily focuses on affordable phones and regular software and security updates, has outsourced the manufacturing of Nokia phones to third parties with facilities in Argentina, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and India.

LG

South Korean company LG Electronics, which announced its first phone in 2006, said it is winding down its loss-making mobile phone business in July to focus on emerging technologies such as EVs, connected and smart home devices, robotics, artificial intelligence and business-to-business equipment.

Its mobile business has been racking up losses since the second quarter of 2015 and the division recorded accumulated operating losses of almost $4.5 billion during that time.

In 2013, it was the world's third-largest smartphone manufacturer behind Samsung and Apple.

Siemens

Siemens Mobile entered the market in 1985 with the launch of Siemens Mobiltelefon C1.

After years of market dominance, the company started ceding market share to Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson. As competition intensified, its global market share dropped from almost 10 per cent in 2000 to only 5.5 per cent in 2005.

In the wake of falling sales, the Munich-based company sold its mobile business to electronics manufacturer BenQ in 2005. The last Siemens-branded mobile phones were launched in the market in November 2005.

BenQ

BenQ Mobile, a subsidiary of Taiwanese company BenQ, started selling phones under the brand name of BenQ-Siemens in 2005.

Despite a good start, BenQ suffered losses worth $1bn after acquiring Siemens Mobile. It filed for bankruptcy in 2006 and reportedly laid off nearly 2,000 employees.

Ericsson

Ericsson Mobile was a subsidiary of Stockholm-based Ericsson with offices in different parts of Sweden and the US. As of 2000, it was the third largest mobile phone seller with an 11 per cent market share, trailing Nokia and Motorola.

It began suffering losses due to supply chain problems and a fire at a Philips factory in 2000 that caused delays during the launch of the company’s new products. To minimise losses and counterbalance its supply chain, Ericsson entered into a partnership with Sony in 2001.

However, in 2011, it sold its 50 per cent stake in the joint venture to Sony for $1.2bn, making the mobile handset business a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Japanese company.

Ericsson said it decided to exit the market as the mobile phone industry was facing rapid changes, with the focus shifting heavily to smartphones.

Sagem

Paris-based Sagem manufactured budget-friendly phones between 1995 and 2000. They introduced the popular Porsche design devices in the market in 2009.

In 2011, the brand was renamed to MobiWire and went bankrupt after few months. It stopped making phones and pivoted to designing and manufacturing gadgets.

Motorola

In 2000, Motorola was the second highest-selling phone manufacturer after Nokia. It sold more than 130 million units of its Razr line-up by 2005.

However, the company lost market share to emerging manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung and LG. Its market share dropped to 6 per cent in 2009, from 23 per cent in 2006.

In 2011, Nokia bought the wireless network infrastructure assets of Motorola for $975 million. It sold them to Google for $12.5bn a year later. The Alphabet-owned company then sold them to Lenovo for nearly $3bn.

Gionee

In 2012, Shenzhen-based electronics manufacturer Gionee had captured almost 5 per cent of the market share in China, the world’s biggest market for smartphones.

Founded in 2002, it was selling its phones in different parts of Asia and North Africa. It went bankrupt in 2018 and was acquired by New Delhi-based Jaina group that makes Karbonn mobiles for low-income customers.

Microsoft

Introduced in 2011, Microsoft Lumia phones were originally designed and marketed by Nokia. They ran on Microsoft's own Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile operating systems that were not very popular among users.

The company stopped making Lumia phones as sales declined. The last Lumia smartphone, the Lumia 650, was launched in February 2016.

In 2017, Microsoft officially confirmed that it would no longer sell or manufacture new Windows 10 Mobile devices.

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