Modular smartphones — 2016's gimmick or a potential game-changer?

Modular smartphones — 2016's gimmick or a potential game-changer?

While the concept of modular phones has been around for some time, it wasn't until early 2016 that it sort of became a household term. It all started with Google's Project Ara phone that has been in development for a couple of years now, and then we got the Fairphone 2, but if we were to point fingers at the rear culprit for improving the popularity of modular handsets, we would point them straight at the LG G5.

Modular smartphones — 2016's gimmick or a potential game-changer?
LG G5 and Friends

LG G5 and Friends

Motorola Moto X4 leaked image

Motorola Moto X4 leaked image

The current LG flagship made a multitude of headlines with its quirky modular unibody design that not only allows users to swap batteries while on the go, but also employ different modules (a.k.a 'Friends') that expand the functionalities of the handset. Currently, the selection is not very diverse - there's the Cam Plus grip module that sports camera controls and a 1,000mAh battery, as well as the Hi-Fi Plus DAC module that should make audiophiles happy. Next, we have the... Actually, these are all the interchangeable modules you can get for your LG G5 right now.

Apart from the G5, it seems that Lenovo might be pondering the modular design idea as well. A trove of leaks and rumors about the upcoming Motorola X4 claim that it will also support some kind of modular backplates, dubbed "Amps". These will connect to the phone via a connector interface array at the lower rear of the handset. Said Amps might or might not include an additional battery module, stereo speakers, a pico projector, a camera grip, or even a rugged case with a wide-angle camera lens attachment. These are all speculations at the moment, but they seem rather plausible.

It looks like the industry is keen on modular technology, but is this what consumers really want? We suppose you might have a say on the matter, so there goes - do you think that modular phones will end up being the biggest gimmick of 2016 or no? 

Cast your votes below and share your opinion in the comments section beneath it.

Modular smartphones - 2016's gimmick or not?

A total gimmick.
27.17%
Modular smartphones are the future!
33.17%
I am not sure just yet, remains to be seen...
39.66%

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40 Comments

1. antmiu2

Posts: 549; Member since: Jun 19, 2011

Me being skeptical, l would not jump out the window and say "Modular smartphones are the future!".. the future is uncertain and specially with how much tech changes these days, so the most accurate statement is: " I'm not sure just yet, remains to be seen".

15. shaineql

Posts: 515; Member since: Apr 28, 2014

LG G5 is total gimmick , absolute no use at all. Camera module ? Few extra buttons , really ? But yeah when Samsung releases modular it will actualy bring usefull features.

26. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

lol what a Fanboy. Did you test those module? did you test the phone? I tested the audio dac ( thats also include better speakers btw ) and its amazing. The quality of the speaker at the botom is simply out of this world and great for conference calling. Been able to remove the battery and just put a new one is also added value thanks to this design. The camera module bring more than extra buttons. If you dont know how good a real physical two step shutter are for taking picture or how 25% more battery life for you is gimmick then the phone is not for you. When Samsung release a modular design its will be full of crappy thing thats dont work so well even reviewer said thats as much as TW gotten better its still one of the least polished skin out there and for sure not the fastest and most fluid experience. So dont keep your hope too high.

36. sgodsell

Posts: 6642; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

I like LG's implementation. What will really help is more modules. Like a larger battery pack module, or a Pico projector like Motorola's new Moto X. Modules are great only if you have a selection to choose from. No modules, means no adoption. This is like the app situation. No apps, then no users. So a modular smartphone has the chicken and the egg problem. Which comes first and how fast can you make and get them.

39. jeevanand88 unregistered

Everything starts frm the spark.. G5 may fail but LG made a courageous step which no one evn tried to commercialise. If modular phones are the future then the first crdit goes to LG G5. They shud hav taken a yr more to bring a better one.

2. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4766; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

Potential gimmick!

3. legiloca

Posts: 1673; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

I'm in between, it really depends how they implement it, LG's implementation is just adding accessories to make the experience 'better', Project Ara's is like building a house brick by brick (CPU, RAM, Camera module, etc.) if they can't capitalize on modular phones, probably hologram phones will blow them out of the water.

8. siddharthayadav202

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 23, 2016

Hologram phones will blow them out of water anyways when their time comes.

4. tokuzumi

Posts: 1751; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

It's a gimmick if the modules can only be used for one phone, even across the same manufacturer. If LG makes another modular phone, it better be compatiable with the modules for the G5. Plus, the only way for these modules to be successful is for third parties to start developing items. That's going to require more standardization. But we know Motorola won't make anything that will work on a LG, and vice versa. So, it's a gimmick right now.

27. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Based on what you just said lots of phone are Gimmick as they dont share all features... For me this is just a good option.

33. Bankz

Posts: 2454; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

I really respect you for your choice of a phone without having to go with the crowd tbh. I really wanted the G5 but the thing is that I was disappointed with the lack of available modules at launch hence my growing dislike for them.. I have seeing the LG on ground and it isnt ans ugly as we all make it out to be (me inclusive, lol) infact its decent even. But yes, like you, i think modularity is the future but what I can understand is that most people are only willing to jump on the band wagon when it's done by either ofbapple or Samsung.. When some other innovative/brave manufacturer like lg/moto/does it people call it gimmick but when Samsung or Apple do it they call it the future. Really anticipating the release of moto though..

5. Flame_Hunter

Posts: 28; Member since: Apr 12, 2016

Maybe it's the future but please make sure that it has and appealing look, not just the fuctionality so that potential buyers will say wow! Upon first impression.

34. Bankz

Posts: 2454; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Absolutely spot on. But let's put it this way, I'm willing to take a bet the moto x (the black vector thin) will be the most stunning flagship phone when it's released.. A bold bet I know but I can actually bet on it, contrary to what everyone has been saying about them. Just my 2 cents anyway. This is the only phone that has gotten me actually excited in like 3 years, as phones these days seem to lack a wow factor as its being more of the same for so long, along with the galaxy s6 edge (which was a hit) and the G5 (which was a fail). Firstly the phone is 5.2mm thick so amp add ons will raise it to maybe 6.5mm - 7.5mm at best which is still crazy thin for a module attachment. Again, Just my 2 cents!

35. TheUnbiasedGuy

Posts: 50; Member since: Apr 21, 2016

As I have used the audio module,I can assure you it looks great

6. Moose

Posts: 418; Member since: Jan 05, 2015

I see modular phones as a gimmick for one reason: OEM's are grasping at straws to differentiate themselves from the competition in recognition that there are so many good choices today, most of which are good enough. There are only two ways to compete: on cost or through some innovative feature. The former is a losing game while the latter is hard to come by. Value-added innovations are not that common now that the smartphone market is so mature. LG proved last year that they are not averse to gimmicks - see their leather backed G4's for example. Also, I don't think many people will be keen on carrying around modules in addition to their phone.

28. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Nope they will keep the module in the phone like my client who got the audio dac one. So having different material for back cover is gimmick? having choice is gimmick too? Some ppl are pretty sad in this world.

7. Podrick

Posts: 1282; Member since: Aug 19, 2015

Its a potential game changer imo. Maybe not for now, its not mature yet but its the future.

9. Dr.SamX

Posts: 231; Member since: Jan 19, 2015

I can only say that after having used Samsung, Huawei and LG devices, the HTC 10 that I am using at the moment is the best device I ever owned! I do not need any gimmicks...

10. true1984

Posts: 859; Member since: May 23, 2012

that's great and all, but that has nothing to do with the article

38. sgodsell

Posts: 6642; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

They use to say smartphones were gimmick when they first started too.

11. cherry.dev

Posts: 107; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

at it's current state, it's total gimmick.

12. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

Game changer. Just like building your own PC/having it custom built is a game changer. Amazing bang for your buck, nothing compares. Building your own is the best option money wise tho. Its just too bad the general public isnt into it.

18. siddharthayadav202

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 23, 2016

Nope. Building your pc is cheaper than getting a pre-built one. This will be more costly.

19. siddharthayadav202

Posts: 286; Member since: Apr 23, 2016

Nope. Building your pc is cheaper than getting a pre-built one. This will be more costly.

13. sissy246

Posts: 6884; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Gimmick

14. nebula

Posts: 1009; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

Lets put things into perspective : Could that have been implemented in smartphone in the first place? Yes it could have been.This sort of gimmick reminds me of fictional problem one creates to bring the solution in. That is regarding audio DAC. Battery pack with zoom and the shutter button, again, nearly all of that could have been build in the phone , bigger battery, shutter button . Does that bring any value to the phone? Not really. I would say it annoys me when you see HTC 10 bringing decent build in DAC at the fraction of a friend price. At the moment given technological advancement and it's use I don't really see much of improvement over current technology available on the phone . Lets see what Moto will bring us this summer . Stereo "friend" among other things seems to be interesting but if to look closer, instead of including front stereo speakers they will charge for a module probably x5 more. And that only indicates to me that the sole reason bringing this kind of module is to make a decent buck.

29. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

The audio DAC in the G5 module is like crazy good better than S7 and HTC 10. the speaker ( they are built on the module btw ) are also pretty good they sound more clear than S7 and HTC 10 just a bit less louder than the HTC 10 but quality is better.. could its been built in the phone? maybe maybe not but the quality is there. Second sentence... well the Camera grip is also welcome not just the shutter bouton. Third one well i agree with you but the DAC on the module for G5 is much better when using headphone and quality of the speaker is better as well. agreed for the rest company are there to make money..

37. nebula

Posts: 1009; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

I haven't see any direct comparison LG G5 ( B&O DAC ) vs HTC 10 audio reviews so I cannot tell which one is better and by how much. For sure S7 is not a competitor for both of them. I would not spend all that money just to get grip but that is personal preference, some may find it appealing. In my wildest imagination I don't think LG camera grip friend will succeed. Pricing is unfriendly given phone it's self already cost half a grand here in UK. Around 70 squid I think best shot will be audio DAC though price is very steep at 150 GBP I am not quite sure if people be willing to spend that much money alone on something that is useless without a phone.

40. nebula

Posts: 1009; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

Quoting androidcentral about HTC 10 DAC review "I can make it easy for those who aren't quite sure what words like crosstalk or harmonic distortion mean — the HTC 10 audio hardware scores as good or better than the LG G5 with the B&O HiFi audio module installed"http://m.androidcentral.com/htc-10-audio-testing-boomsound-evolved I am pretty confident instead of wasting £150 on LG DAC module one should buy HTC 10 and invest that money to buy some half decent earphones.

16. Djz89

Posts: 420; Member since: Aug 25, 2014

No game changer.

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