Talking Tech

Modularity needs standardization in order to survive.


The fate of the emerging modular smartphone market is anyone’s guess at this point. The title of “Game changing modular smartphone” is up for grabs as LG and Lenovo (Motorola) are working to develop compelling mates to their flagships. Whether or not these modular phones, or modularity in general for that matter, will spark a revolution in the smartphone world is uncertain, but what is certain is the fact that these modules are expensive! The Moto Z’s addons’ prices range from the price $25 to the price of a capable computer, and it begs the question “If developing a modular phone is supposed to get the common user to buy the addons, then why are the addons so darn expensive?” A valid question indeed. What adds insult to injury is the fact that modularity itself is so unstable and ify. The Audio DAC for the G5 isn’t availale in the states for some reason, and we’re still waiting on more modules from LG. And both companies are producing modules that are rather hit or miss among users. The modular landscape is expensive, wild and chaotic, and in desperate need of direction. This is a reason that’s it’s pretty hard to catch on, but there’s a chance yet for modularity, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a specific phone or module.
Think back to before Android was the dominating force it is today. OEM’s slapped on whatever OS they could onto their phones, and they varied from company to company, and from device to device. Each company held to its own, and it was a mess. The only phone that had any sort of a unified experience was the iPhone. Then BOOM! enter Android to bring them all together, and now we have an experience that’s more or less standard though out most phones out there. This is potentially the story for modularity. Right now, it’s like the smartphones of old, so there needs to be a unifying force to make modularity affordable and accessable.
That force should come in the form of a singular company (let’s call it “Omnimod” for the purpose of this article) with a singular goal: not to make the best modules, but to make the concept of modularity attainable and appealing to the average user. Omnimod will produce affordable modules and an interface to unify them in a way that far surpasses the likes of the LG’s Friends and the Moto Mods. Future phones will have to be manufactured to be compatible with Omnimod’s modules of course, but these phones will be able to connect with its modules. If a fair amount of phones are launched that are compatible with Omnimod’s modules, then this will place modularity into the hands of thousands of more people.
What’s more, Omnimod will be charged with the duty of producing modules that are relatively inexpensive. As it stands, Moto mods have a large price range. At the top is the projector, which is actually rather appealing to me, but at $400, (The price of a ZTE Axon 7, to put it in perspective) it’s not at all attractive. Omnimod’s modules will come at a reasonable price, which makes obvious sense. Why pay the price for a mod that’s the price of an entire other phone?
Omniprod will make modularity available to companies that don’t have the assets to invest full force into modularity. Say modularity actually takes off and more companies want to get in on the action, some of those companies might not be able to afford manucaturing their own modules. Omniprod will build the modules, and the OEM would have to build their phone with the necessary hardware and software compatibility to accept the modules, and then they can be in the modularity race. Think about it; if a company that’s popular in the budget market were to build Omnimod compatible devices, then the users who invest in those phones will get to experience modularity.
That’s significant, as most people who invest in budget devices are common users, and that’s what we want! I’m not sure many people know about LG’s Friends, or even the Moto mods. That’s because the common user is unaware of what’s going on in the mobile tech world. Just simply telling them that there are phones out there that can be augmented with addons would make them ignore the idea all together as it’s just another thing to make mobile technology more complicated. But if the concept of modularity was made available to a broad assortment of smartphones, and presented in a manner that’s simple to understand it’ll be a bit more memorable to the average user. It’s ushering the concept into the minds of the everyday common user that will cement modularity as a significant step in the evolution of mobile technology.
There needs to be a force that can bring a standard to modularity, and more importantly than that, can bring VALUE to it. What techies want to see is this new frontier of mobile technology take off, and what common users want to see is something that’s new, but simple. A unifying force can do both and pave the way for more innovation in modularity. Right now, we’re either shaking out heads, or crossing our fingers. It’s not something that can survive if LG and Motorola are at the helm. It’s a blood match between these companies, but it shouldn’t be. It should be a platform that will bring new life to the mobile technology landscape. This is, of course, only speculation, but the two best words to sum up modularity in this day and age are “Who know?” So, who knows what the fate of modularity is for sure? Certiainly not us. All we can do is keep our ears to the ground and listen out for new developments in modularity, hopefully a company like Omnimod is not too far away.

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