Project Ara is Google’s (read as Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects Division’s) attempt at making the Modular Phone Design dream a reality. And Google’s participation in this is both an advantage and a disadvantage; we’ve seen google turn abstract ideas into mainstream products before so we know they can do this but they also have a very patchy relationship with hardware. (The only products they’ve built COMPLETELY in-house are the Pixel C Tablet and the Chromecast. While they are good, they aren’t really as complicated as what they are attempting with the Project Ara).
Google promises a highly modular phone consisting a frame and all the other components in the form of modules called “endos”. Google will issue a starter kit at USD 50 which includes the basic necessities including a low-end CPU. The frame will be available in three sizes; small (Nokia 3310-ish), a medium (Nexus 5-ish) and, in the future, a large (Galaxy Note 3-ish). Google also has, earlier, this year began polling users on how much they would be willing to pay for various additional modules.
Image credit: gigaom.com
Whilst these all sound very promising, progress hasn’t been without hurdles. There were several blow-ups in testing which caused huge delays in the prototyping and while Google did claim in Feb 2016 that they had finally gotten it right and were hoping to start taking pre-orders the product by the May-June 2016, rumors claim there has been a further delay.
Image credit: tech.firstpost.com
This is where the LG steps in. The LG G5, which was released earlier this year is the best we have at the moment when it comes to Modular Phones. It is, by no means, the sum total of what we dream of. Instead, its the first step in the right direction.
The LG G5 does not try to provide as much customizability as the previous iterations; the screen, CPUs, GPUs and the networking hardware are built in and cannot be tampered with. What can be altered, at the moment, are the battery, the camera and the audio amplifiers but LG claims there are more “FRIENDS”(yes, that’s what the modules are called) on their way.
Image credit: gsmarena.com
This ensures that if you ever find yourself in a situation that demands a better camera, you can swap out your current one for a more suitable lens. Or if you are off on a trek without a power bank, you can swap out your existing battery for a bigger one.
The applications seem interesting, if also slightly limited. But the LG G5 is, like I stated before, the first step in the modular phone direction. It’s Version 1 with a long way to go.
So, that was it on modular phones and the different attempts at them. What do you think of them though? Are you excited by the direction phone tech is taking?
Let us know!