A few months ago, the we got our first mainstream modular smartphone, the LG G5. It stood alone as the only phone in the market that could boast this feature, and the world is still eagerly waiting to see what LG has to bring to the table that’ll earn it the right to boast. But now the mobile world has another modular phone, the Moto Z and Z Force. These are two completely different takes on modularity, but they both serve one common purpose and goal, to prove that modularity has a future. Let’s take a look at these two versions and see what each has to offer.
This isn’t a comparison between the two phones of course, just how their addons augment the already compelling experiences.
Most of the features that the LG G5 has to offer pretty much fall in line with the trend that’s been going on this year: QHD panel, Snapdragon 820 SoC with the Adreno 530 and 4 Gb’s of RAM. The main story of interest, though, is its modularity. There are only two modules that are out right now, and that’s the camera grip and the audio DAC. There are plans to have other companies manufacture friends that LG have put into play and we’re still waiting to see what people will come up with. The main eye catcher here is the G5 retaining the ability to swap out the battery where most OEM’s are sealing theirs in. That in itself is a major plus. Sure, you can tack on charger cases, but nothing is more reassuring than knowing that the actual battery your device is running on in its most naked state is fresh and reliable. But there’s the elephant in the room that needs to be pointed at… If you want to attach a module, you have to take out the battery, attach it to the module, replace the battery, turn your phone back on, use it, and repeat the process if you want to take the module off. If you want to use the camera grip on the fly, then you are in for a disappointment. You’ll either have to have it pre installed before your camera shootout or do without. This can be a point of frustration for anyone trying to utilize the G5’s modularity to its full extent.
Before the LG G5, we all had sort of a common vision of what a modular phone would and should be; a device who’s components were easily accessible and interchangeable. LG’s Friends are nothing of the sort, and it seems that Lenovo has capitalized on that. Instead of actually removing anything from the phone, whatever module you want to use can be placed onto the back with a snap! There are magnetic connectors that adorn the back of the phone, which is where the modules connect and communicate with it. What’s nifty about this method is how some of the modules fit onto the device. The Moto Z itself looks rather alien, it’s completely flat with a larger than life camera bump. But modules such as the battery pack and the stylish backs add the signature Motorola curved back and make the camera flush with it. The Moto Z’s assortment of available attachments include a battery pack, a projector, and a JBL audio loud speaker. The Moto Z one-ups the G5 with it’s far more convenient way of switching out addons.
So far, it seems that the Moto’s modularity has beat out LG’s. It’s not appropriate, though, to say that Moto’s method is better, as much as it is to say that it’s closer to our common dream of modularity. What we want are modules that can be swapped as seamlessly as switching between apps (Though that may never happen). LG’s method has it obvious drawbacks, but it’s not a disaster by any means. In any case, when we get down the line, how these modules are placed onto the phones will start to become less and less important. What will sit firmly in our minds is what addons these companies come up with in order to bring value to modularity. When it comes down to it, each company is going to have to prove that modularity is the trend of the future. This is a difficult task, as most technologies take tons of trial and error and missteps before someone figures out how to do it right. This might be the start of a bold new frontier in smartphone technology, or just a trial and error period. It’s still up in the air at this point, so let’s let the dogs of war run wild and see what these two tech giants have in store for us!