LG G5 the new modular phone
LG G5 has been announced this week at Mobile World Congress and it suggests a brand new design feature : modularity. It’s not the first that a company presents a modular phone since products like Fairphone 2, phoneblok, Ara Google and Puzzlephone were announced at the end of last year. Here’s an overview of this new breed of mobile phones.
What’s a modular smartphone? And what for?
Most modular phone projects emphasize on their limited ecological impact because they’re easily repairable compared to traditional “pre-built” phones.
For example, if your screen breaks you won’t have to buy a whole cellphone, you just gonna have to change the screen, which can be done pretty easily by yourself. Furthermore, core componants (e.g. the processor) can be replaced if the current ones cannot support a major update. For instance, Apple faced lawsuits after its iOS 9 update slowed down iPhone 4 users. Those componant changes apply to all the other componants of the phone. This also means that you can build your phone according to your needs and of course, your wallet.
Phonebloks and Ara Google Project
Phonebloks is one those first modular phone projects launched in 2013. Initially designed to give the users the opportunity to build their own phones with separate componants, like Lego blocks, has nurtured a very active online community that highlights Phonebloks’ eco-friendliness. Phonebloks’ team is currently cooperating with Google on the Ara project, another modular phone based on the same concept, which will be released in the course of 2016.
Circular Devices, a finnish Start-up, is also offering a modular phone of its own, the PuzzlePhone , which is divided in three parts: the first for the screen, the second for the processor/memory couple, and the last for the battery. Although the start-up hasn’t raised the whole sum from the crowfunding campaign for the PuzzlePhone (only 116.000$ out of the 250.000 $ requested), the release is still maintained for September 2016.
The Fairphone 2
Dutch smartphone Fairphone 2 is also a modular one which can easily be taken to pieces with a scewdriver even if it’s not “lego-fashioned”. The first module contains a display unit, a battery pack, the second a speaker, a microphone, a buzzer and an USB port , the third module contains a headphone jack, an earpiece, a front camera, and the last module contains a back camera and a flexible shell to cover the whole device. The price is approximately about 785$ CAD, and modules prices may vary between 30$ and 125$. The Fairphone is not only eco-friendly but also Fair Trade certified. Like coffee or chocolate, electronic devices can be Fair trade certified in order to make sure that the whole production chain is fairly paid out. The company also commits itself to only deal with well managed and conflict-free mines that ensure employees’ safety and decent wages. However, the FairPhone2 is still not available in Canada.
The LG G5
What about LG G5? One must know that LG was the very first company to offer the modularity features in a phone. Chinese manufacturers ZTE and XIAOMI are also working modular phones projects: ECO-mobius’ ZTE and MAGIC CUBE’s XIAOMI. No release dates have been announced so far.G5’s modules can be fixed at the bottom of the device, like old consoles’ cartridges, which grant access to the battery. LG offers 2 modules for now : CAM PLUS that improves the grip while taking pictures, and the Hi-Fi PLUS, in partnership with B&O Play, which displays a better sound quality.
LG is clearly aiming at a niche market by emphasizing on the high level of customization of its product rather its eco-friendliness. LG also considers to subcontract modules’ development to other companies. If LG succeeds in convincing its audience of its product’s practicality, G5’s modules may spread to some other industries. Neither the price or the release date have been announced for Canada so far.