LG's Chocolate 3 – Moving in Reverse?

Before the iPhone was engrained in the public’s consciousness, LG and Verizon Wireless released a little music-capable phone called the Chocolate. While it didn’t cause people to abandon their iPods, it did have an attention-grabbing "slider" form factor. The Chocolate proliferated in colors (9 in total) over the last 2 years and the hardware was upgraded about a year ago, but the slider design remained the most recognizable aspect of the phone.

As consumers have expressed interest in this style, wireless carriers have increased their offering of slider-style phones. The chart below tracks consumers’ interest in slider phones weekly over the last year. The bars represent consumer interest in slider phones as a percentage of total consumer interest in all mobile phones, and the line represents the percentage of all phones on carrier websites that have that form factor.

  • When interest in slider phones spiked in Q4 of 2007, consumer interest in slider phones exceeded the carrier offerings by 68%
  • Carriers have paid attention to this gap and steadily increased their slider phone offerings, although consumer interest still exceeded carrier offerings by 31% in Q2 2008

All signs point to the slider market continuing to grow. However, the debut of the Chocolate 3 on July 13 marked a move away from the phone’s signature, and desirable, slider form. The Chocolate 3 is a traditional "flip" phone, albeit one with an iPod-esque spin wheel on the front.

The choice is an unusual one. Not only are slider phones gaining in popularity, but Compete’s data shows that there’s already an abundance of flip phones on the market. Below is a similar chart to the one above, depicting consumer’s interest in flip phones weekly over the last year.

  • Similar to the slider chart above, consumer interest in flip phones is closely matched by carrier offerings in Q3 2007.
  • Consumer interest drops off quite a bit in Q4 2007 and Q1 2008 while the carrier offerings stay largely unchanged. Consumer interest was 23% lower than carrier offerings in Q4 2007.
  • In Q2 2008, consumer interest and carrier offerings draw closer, although consumer interest was still 11% lower than carrier offerings.

Let’s recap: LG releases the successful Chocolate slider. Consumers are increasingly interested in slider phones. Now, LG is planning to build on the Chocolate’s success by redesigning the Chocolate 3 to have a flip form factor. There’s an abundance of flips already on the market, and consumer interest in them has been falling…

Consumers’ interest in sliders is still growing and carriers’ portfolios aren’t loaded up with enough sliders to meet that demand yet. On the other hand, the flip design, which formerly enjoyed extreme popularity thanks to iconic phones like the RAZR, may be overrepresented in carrier portfolios.

The days of the flip being king seem to have passed, though it is worth noting that the flip is enjoying a reinvention on phones such as the Voyager and enV2. These phones hide full QWERTY keyboard for email and text messaging fans. But when the flip hides a regular numeric keypad, consumers seem to be less interested. My guess is that we’ll see the slider return to the Chocolate family if the Chocolate 3 has a weak debut.

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