May 02 AT 9:49 AM Taylor Wimberly 25 Comments

Why do Android OEMs agree to exclusive carrier launches?


AT&T is the king of exclusive phone launches, and this week they announced the LG Optimus G Pro would be available exclusively from their stores, for $199.99 with a two-year contract beginning May 10. We know why carriers love exclusive devices — they generate foot traffic in their retail stores, but why do hardware OEMs keep agreeing to limit their flagship devices to a single US carrier?

We assume that AT&T made some kind of deal with LG to spend a couple million on advertising the new Optimus G Pro. This might benefit LG by raising consumer awareness of the device, but the majority of US customers will still be unable to use the device since they are not on AT&T.

History has shown that carrier exclusive devices rarely sell well. The only major exceptions were the Apple iPhone and Verizon’s Droid series. The LG Optimus G Pro is an awesome device, but it doesn’t have the brand recognition of the iPhone and people will not be switching to AT&T just to buy one.

Samsung has proven that US consumers will buy smartphones with huge displays larger than 5-inches, so the LG Optimus G Pro could possibly sell pretty well if it was available across the four largest US carriers. The Galaxy Note II is still a great device, but the newer Optimus G Pro has a better camera, faster processor, and higher resolution display.

LG has a great product on their hands, but they appear to be shooting themselves in the foot by limiting the Optimus G Pro to a single US carrier.

Source: AT&T

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • redraider133

    I think the smaller OEMs don’t really have a choice. The carriers will just say you do this or we won’t carry your device, and even having it on one carrier is better than having it on none. I wish the exclusives would go away so everyone can get any device and not be limited in choices.

    • jonathan3579

      LG is hardly a smaller OEM. For some reason, they’re just not very inclined to sell many of their devices stateside. (It’s a shame too.)

  • Nate B.

    This is why the fall or struggle. One phone, one name, abd on the same damn day. Regardless if it’s unlocked a manufacture can still update it if they wanted to. Look at Apple. iPone on every carrier abd they all get updated at the same damn time. Google could do this if they really wanted to. No excuse. Samsung could do this if they wanted to. No excuse. If you get as big as Apple or Samsung you can do this. Fortunately I don’t care about the optimus g pro but it still bothers me because it makes across look bad as a whole. If I had an epic phone that everyone wanted I would launch it on every carrier at the same damn time. If they wanted an exclusive variant or name change they wouldn’t get it if they couldn’t let it be what it was meant to be. I’m sure it’s things we don’t know about that go on being the scenes but I’m sure it’s all stupid. They’re just money hungry. Everyone wants their own.

  • Jimmy_Jo

    That’s true. Carriers are stuck in 2003. They will take the LG Optimus G Pro and make it the Sprint LG Optimus 4G Prime or the Verizon Droid Optimum Pro II (why “II”? because AT&T had it a week earlier so they can make people think this is an updated version)

    It’s sad. Manufacturers should make phones and Carriers sell service. I don’t have to buy BP gas because they have exclusive rights to my car.

  • MyMilan

    Why do android oems agree to exclusive carrier launches? Old habits die hard I guess. They spend all kinds of time to develop and build these phones, and then they shoot themselves in the foot like this.

    • Jimmy_Jo

      Also, it’s a “boy’s club” and no one wants to step on their partners toes. It’s childish. In business you should be doing what’s best for your customer and your business.

  • Alexander drzfr3shboialex

    That’s why HTC has been at such a lost, exclusivity is stupid.

  • slimx30

    oems are stupid and limit their customer base by doing this. Oems and the way the carriers do things in the us is bs. This is why I buy unlocked and stay away from contracts.

  • DroidSamurai

    >> The only major exceptions were the Apple iPhone and Verizon’s Droid series.

    Even that is debatable. As almighty as the iPhone was back at those dates, people still stick with their carriers. In fact, we can argue that the success of the Droid series is partially due to the AT&T exclusiveness of the iPhone.

  • alexnguyen018

    Without reading anything else besides the title, it’s obviously due to money. Carrier A is willing to shell out extra money for exclusivity period while Carriers B, C, and D aren’t, so Carrier A gets exclusivity. Take it from an insider, it’s that simple.

  • jamal adam

    OEM’s are their own worst enemies. They just can’t give up on some exclusivity money. I mean what don’t they get about releasing to all major carriers, I mean, you would have to be an idiot to not realize that the more people that you are reaching out to, the greater the chance that you’ll make more money and sell more of your smartphones. Look at Apple and then look at Samsung and you’d easily have your answer on how to sell and increase your bran recognition. At this point, I’m at a loss for words on any company that decides to agree to an exclusive contract. To me it just means they don’t care as much.

  • rauelius

    OEMs doing this to themselves is like cutting off a foot for a pair of really nice shoes.

  • sushimane

    android oem that does carrier exclusive are retard because they dont think of the bigger picture the more carrier you are on the more profit that android oem get. Having one good phone on one carrier isnt gonna make the oem profit they either break even or worst not make profit at all. that’s my opinion

    • rauelius

      No, sushimane, that’s a fact. You have it 100%

  • monk

    Carriers in US have a lot of power, too much IMHO. Mid to low tier phone manufacturers have to accept any impositions if they want to sell any phone. Only Apple and Samsung are in a position to negotiate, not even Nokia, HTC, LG or Sony. In other countries this is very regulated and you can’t buy a phone in the same place that you buy the service. For foreigners, the US way is like buying your PC from Comcast/Verizon, or your car at Exxon…

    Subsidies are a financial trick from the carriers to lock you in… You finish paying much more than you think. I hope that the TMobile model helps to change this mentality.

  • donger

    Totally agree with the whole article. Just like HTC and Verizon.

  • Richard Yarrell

    Clearly this is NOTHING more than a large screened smartphone with NO real true productivity ability nor actual multitasking abilities on the level of the Galaxy Note 2. Then they bring it to market with android 4.1.2 and 21gb of usable storage out of 32gb. The problem with LG has always been it’s ability to update devices as well as software flaws. I wouldn’t touch this device for free on today’s market. Clearly the Galaxy Note 2 is the GOLD STANDARD of technology today the device that all manufacturers are trying to catch up to and copy. Samsung has nothing to worry about here the Gpro won’t sell to well on At&t Samsung already has this market tied down with legitimate products that are simply better. And we won’t even discuss the Galaxy Note 3 which will ultimately BITCH SLAP this silly copycat device.

    • squiddy20

      1. You want a device with “true productivity and actual multitasking abilities”? Get a f*cking laptop. Desktop OS’s have had multitasking abilities for decades.
      2 “and 21gb of usable storage out of 32gb.” You have no room to talk on this issue Samsung fanboy. The 16GB S4 realistically has only 8GB of usable storage, since “Nature UI” and all the “features” Samsung throws on there take up almost 7GB of storage, while the system images for any Nexus device are less than half that.
      3. “Clearly the Galaxy Note 2 is the GOLD STANDARD of technology today the device that all manufacturers are trying to catch up to and copy.” Clearly, you are delusional. In specs, just about every “phablet” put out by other manufacturers lately has completely surpassed the Note 2. Heck, even regular smartphones have surpassed it (like the DNA with its 1080p screen while the Note 2 only has 720p).

    • Sargon

      How is any of that drivel even relevant to the article? Just stop. You can’t afford any of these anyway. You have no education, you talk like a retarded 5th-grader from 1960, you work in a soup kitchen, live in a small room, and watch a CRT TV from 1980 that you found in the trash. Perhaps you believe your own bullshit, but no-one else does, “high roller” ctfu.

  • Bhugtaan mobile and Dth recharge App

    I have no AT&T device so i am not able to use this cell phone.

  • jake

    I thought this article was going to answer the question for me, but alas, it states nothing.

  • John Patrick

    My guess is they got a cold shoulder from Verizon because they’re already carrying the Galaxy Note 2. Verizon probably still sees Phablets as risky in terms of order commitments and capital tied up in inventory. t-Mobile is probably close to their credit limit on inventory between the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4 inventory they’re committed to take. Sprint is probably saying, sure we’d like to carry it but we still have all these damn iPhone 5′s we have to sell…

  • reggie

    pff stupid LG, i want this phone, so does my oncle, we live in europe, and it wont even come here…
    5″ is to little and we like that the lg optimus G pro has a 5.5″ full hd,
    we dont like the samsung s4 and htc one to little screen, so yeah and note 3 will ahve to big screen 6″.
    LG your are doing it bad, by the time this will come to europe it will be old.
    and again Lg still bad because they make adverteising for the Lg optimus G, wtf last week on tv, that isnt a new device…
    stupid, realy this is how you lose market share, now htc and samsung, and sony also have 1080p phone is all europe, LG olny 1080p phone only in america at at&t….

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