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Earlier this year, Korean electronics giant LG threw in the towel on making its own Android smartphones, and now it looks like the company may be forging ahead with a unique new partnership with Apple to sell the iPhone in its sprawling collection of South Korean retail stores.
Although Apple opened its first store in South Korea over three years ago, it’s only added one more retail store since that time, and both stores are located in Seoul, the country’s capital.
By comparison, LG operates more than 400 “LG Best Shops” throughout the country, where it sells a variety of other products, ranging from its very popular OLED TVs to wireless speakers and even home appliances. The elimination of LG’s smartphones leaves a big gap in its product offerings, and it’s one that it may be hoping to fill by courting Apple, rather than another Android handset maker.
According to Business Korea, LG Electronics and Apple are currently in negotiations to not only bring the iPhone, but also the iPad and Apple Watch to the company’s retail stores.
The Apple products would fill the space vacated by LG’s fairly extensive range of smartphones, which never moved off the shelves as fast as the Korean tech giant would have liked. The company is also looking to avoid laying off salespeople by doing this, using the same staff that previously sold LG’s mobile phones to sell Apple products instead.
According to sources, the arrangement would see Apple products sold in a separate “shop-within-a-shop” area of the store, similar to how Apple products are presented at retailers like Best Buy.
In the past, Apple has hired employees directly to work in at least some of its “Brand Stores” at various retailers, and there’s some debate right now about Apple would also take this approach by directly supplying staff or whether it would simply train LG’s Best Shop employees to sell its products.
If the two companies can come to an agreement, the partnership could be ready to go later this summer, once LG finishes pulling out of the smartphone business completely.
Analysts suggest that it probably won’t happen before the end of July, however, as LG hasn’t quite finished selling smartphones in its stores yet. Not only is Apple unlikely to agree to the idea of LG selling the iPhone alongside its own discontinued smartphones, but LG probably isn’t keen on the idea either, since putting the iPhone on sale would hamper its ability to sell off its existing stock.
However, the agreement is far from a done deal, and an LG Electronics official told Business Korea that “nothing has been decided yet” and the two companies are “exploring all possibilities.”
One of the biggest sticking points right now, according to sources, is whether LG will also sell Mac products in its shops. Apple seems to want an all-or-nothing deal from the South Korean retailer, but since LG still sells its own laptop, the LG Gram, it’s currently refusing to sell any Mac products as part of the deal. It also doesn’t want to provide repair and maintenance services for Macs, which it would also have to do if it chose to sell Apple’s computers in its stores.
This last point sounds like it’s non-negotiable from LG’s perspective, which means that if the two companies do come to an agreement, Apple will have to settle for having only its mobile devices showing up in LG Best Shops.
This is actually just the most recent example of a cozier relationship that seems to be developing between Apple and the South Korean electronics giant. Although it’s far from the only company to embrace Apple’s technologies, LG has added AirPlay 2 and HomeKit to a fairly extensive lineup of its smart TVs. Apple has also sold LG UltraFine 5K displays in its own retail stores for the past several years, following the demise of its own Thunderbolt and Cinema Displays.
More interestingly, recent rumours have suggested that LG Electronics may be partnering with Magna to build the Apple Car, and while this is essentially an arms-length subsidiary of the massive South Korean tech conglomerate, It’s still a significant development in the relationship between Apple and LG.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]