[Disclaimer: All of this is assuming IF modular design takes off.]
Smartphone companies put forth much time and energy in order to make you think that their smartphones are an absolute necessity. They showcase the features, the appeal and the life style that can be obtained by purchasing their phones. With modular design no longer being the stuff of imagination, that fact remains just as true now as in years past, but there may be a shift in this trend if modular phones become big. The way a smartphone is presented and advertised will change dramatically in order to accent its modularity. This hasn’t happened yet, of course, and won’t happen for some time, (if ever) but if it does, it’ll happen when the competition between companies’ module designs heats up.
Right now, OEM’s want people to believe that their phones are the complete package; that anything anyone would ever need for gaming, media consumption, productivity and so on, can be found on that 5 inch device in their pockets. That mentality is one of the reasons to why we think of smartphones in such a high regard; and most phones come very close to being that complete package, but this presents a conundrum: if these phones are packing pretty much everything under the sun, then what’s the use of modularity? A valid question, and a potential thorn in the sides of OEM’s trying to market it. In order for this conundrum to dissolve, a big shift in consumers’ mentality toward what a smartphone is will have to happen. A smartphone is thought of as a universe of its own nowadays, but the ambitious endeavours of OEM’s will shatter that. We will eventually think of a smartphone as the central point of an entire ecosystem of devices. Today, we see the LG G5 as a phone first and a modular device second, but modularity is still in its waking moments. Think a few years down the road when modularity is as intrinsic to flagship smartphones as QHD displays are today. The latest and greatest smartphones will have a suite of modules that will define much of their core user experience, just as the processor package, screen resolution, software and memory do today.
OEM’s will do their best to make this happen by changing the way they advertise their devices, thus changing the way the average user thinks about smartphones. The LG G5 is a magnificent phone on its own because LG has made it that way. They put a lot of work into presenting us with a very nice device, but that’s because modularity is still, for the most part, an abstract concept. But let’s say in the future, there’s an LG M5. It’d be marketed mostly as just a smartphone; not a super powerful, versatile and capable device that will blow your mind with its shear power, no, just a smartphone. But this smartphone will be a conduit for the many modules that the company will build. This will happen, not only to LG, but to other companies. One thing that may support this is the fact that smartphone technology is plateauing. Innovation is getting more and more difficult as OEM’s are presenting us with less and less new stuff in their devices outside of faster processors and better cameras. So, a few years in the future, innovations in smartphone technology will be at a stand still, but the possibilities of modularity will be plentiful as companies will still be discovering what can be added onto their phones.
What we think of as the pinnacle of what a company has to offer today, may soon just be a vessel for a slew of modules. This is one possible direction that modularity could take us, and it starts with that shift is what we consider to be a smartphone. Just take note of the disclaimer at the top and know that this is open for opposing views, so if you have any, feel free to comment below.