Each new generation of smartphones brings upgrades to the table but truth be told, the improvements are pretty predictable. Every year we can expect slightly sharper screens, faster processors, more RAM or better cameras. Also, users tend to get more demanding than they used to be, so it takes more effort to impress them. So, what can a manufacturer do to catch users’ attention? Launch a modular phone, for instance. LG just released one and more may be on their way this year. Does it mean that we are facing a revolution yet?
Manufacturers have been teasing modular phones for a long time and finally they are here. But will such devices become an inherent part of the market or will the fascination be just temporary?
How it all started
The idea of manufacturing a smartphone that is made of several easily replaceable components is not new at all. The first company to publicly announced that it’s planning to launch a modular smartphone was Google. The initiative called Project Ara begun in 2013 and even though two and a half years have passed, we still don’t know when exactly the handset will be released. The launch date was pushed back several times already so apparently it’s much more difficult to make a modular smartphone than Google expected but the company is not giving up.
Other modular phones
Google, however, is not the only manufacturer which has been working on modular smartphones. In mid-January 2015 the Fairphone 2 was announced and although it was a far cry from what Google intends to achieve with Project Ara, it can be called the first modular smartphone. The components are not as easily replaceable as on Project Ara but if you need a better camera or more RAM, it can be done.
And then 2016 came and brought the LG G5 – the best attempt at modular design so far. The phone has a removable bottom part which can be replaced with different modules called “Friends.” For now, users can opt for a Cam Plus grip module which adds camera controls and a 1,000 mAh battery or the Hi-Fi Plus DAC module designed with music enthusiasts in mind. The selection of “Friends” is not very impressive at the moment but there will be more.
What future holds
If the latest rumors are to be believed, later this year we can expect another modular device to hit the market – the Motorola X4 made by Lenovo. The phone is said to have a special connector interface array at the lower rear which will allow to attach different modules to expand functionality.
Rumored modules include an additional battery, stereo speakers, a pico projector, a camera grip, or even a rugged case with a wide-angle camera lens. Keep in mind, though, that the Motorola X4 is not official yet, so it may end up being completely different from what we are told now.
Modular phones are no longer some distant idea which may or may not become reality in the future. They are already here and more and more companies are exploring the concept. Since the idea is pretty fresh and still can be considered revolutionary, it has caught the attention of users and expert, but how long will the interest hold? Is modular design a new trend or just a short-lived enthusiasm? Only time will tell.