LG is better off ditching the modular dream for now

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The LG G5, announced during MWC in February earlier this year, is arguably one of the more interesting flagships we’ve seen offered in 2016. LG’s G series of smartphones has been gaining traction over the past couple of years, and the G5 certainly turned heads when LG announced its partially modular design, which allows users to add modules to improve certain aspects of the phone.

It sounded good in theory, but realistically hasn’t garnered much attention after the fact. Only two modules, the CAM Plus and the Hi-Fi DAC modules, have been released, despite the implication that more modules would become available over the course of the year. There’s also the fact that modules are expensive, and require a reboot of the device every time you switch modules out.

The G5’s less-than-desirable fate was a mixture of two things: the modular capabilities weren’t modular enough, and modularity in general just doesn’t seem like something that most smartphone consumers are interested in, or even ready for. Even Google’s Project Ara, which was based almost entirely on modularity, was canceled earlier this year, so perhaps it’s good news to read that LG is allegedly giving up on the modular dream when it comes to the G6.

In some ways it’s a shame, because it felt like smartphones were heading in a more modular direction. Not only was the G5 unveiled this year, but the Lenovo Moto Z was also unveiled with a “modular type” design of its own. Before Project Ara was canceled, I had high hopes for the future of modular smartphones. Lately, though, my enthusiasm for the concept has waned. I still think that the modular concept is interesting and could help with certain pitfalls of the industry such as contributing to e-Waste, but I’m no longer convinced that modularity is a concept that the industry, or its consumers, are ready for right now.

In regards to LG, I do wonder if the G6 will end up being more popular than the G5. It’s hard to imagine that something designed retroactively could be more popular than something so innovative (even if unpopular, I do consider the G5 to be innovative), but not impossible, especially when you take into consideration how well Apple’s “retro” iPhone SE was received earlier this year. Plus, when you think about it, as long as LG keeps a micoSD card, removable battery, and 3.5mm headphone jack, they’re pretty much set. Even in the unlikely case that their batteries caused explosions, a removable battery would make the situation a hundred times easier to deal with than inconveniencing people with multiple returns or exchanges.

But I’m sure that LG would still need to come up with something to attract attention to the brand. Although I believe LG’s popularity has improved over the past few years, it still wanes in comparison to Apple, Samsung, and most recently Google. My first thought was for LG to add in the same secondary display that it has in the V10 and V20, but then that takes away from the uniqueness of the V series.

On the other hand, perhaps LG’s best move is just to keep it simple, as we can see with the G5 that it is possible to be innovative and unsuccessful at the same time. With the Note 7 officially off the table and the iPhone 7 causing controversy with the missing 3.5mm headphone jack, now also appears to be the most opportune moment to be perfectly adequate when it comes to smartphones; if only HTC had waited until now to release the HTC 10.

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