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Android Businesses Cellphones Hardware Technology

LG Is Abandoning the Modular Smartphone Idea (theverge.com) 78

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: LG's modular phone accessory strategy that served as the primary differentiator for last year's G5 smartphone appears to be no more. The Wall Street Journal reports that the South Korean company is pivoting away from the plug-in "Friends" modules for the upcoming G6 device after lackluster sales for the G5. Per The Wall Street Journal, an LG spokesperson commented that consumers aren't interested in modular phones. The company instead is planning to focus on functionality and design aspects for the upcoming G6, which Chief Technologist Skott Ahn says will be released "in the very near future." According to the WSJ, the LG G6 will arrive "in the very near future," which suggests the phone will launch at Mobile World Congress next month.
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LG Is Abandoning the Modular Smartphone Idea

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  • quality (Score:2, Redundant)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 )
    This is anecdotal, but I've never used an LG product that worked well. From their washing machines to their phones, there was always something wonky.
    • and their low end is serviceable. My coworker has been using an $600 LG for going on 5 years now. I've had one of their $150 phones for going on 2 years now and it's tolerable. It could get better signal, but then again it's a non-Band 12 T-Mobile phone. Not enough short range spectrum.
      • A friend of mine had a middle-of-the-pack LG phone, and it lasted six years. He finally replaced it because the physical back button on the phone wouldn't respond unless you pressed very hard on the button. If it wasn't for that, he'd probably still be using it.

  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Thursday January 05, 2017 @08:41PM (#53614577)

    Hate to say it, but a bad idea in search of a problem...

    • Yup. It sounds really cool on paper, but just doesn't fit well with the form factor of a mobile phone.
    • The idea of modular phones or computers, where customers are expected to purchase proprietary modules to change their setup or just to upgrade, has been around since the dawn of the PC. Back in the 80's Byte magazine was filled with ads from computer manufacturers that claimed that you never had to buy a new computer, just swap out their custom (and therefore expensive) modules. Those manufacturers are, of course, not around any longer. It isn't possible to implement something like this without increasing
    • by skam240 ( 789197 )

      I disagree.

      While I think modular phones wont make it because consumer choice costs more there are certainly problems being addressed in making phones modular.

      While I realize using myself only provides andicdotal evidense I'm going to do it anyways. I dont care about literally anything phone companies are pushing right now. I dont care how thick my phone is, if it's less than an inch it's fine. I dont care how powerfull my phone is, while I'm a power oriented PC user such things are irrelevant for me on pho

      • I dont care about literally anything phone companies are pushing right now. I dont care how thick my phone is, if it's less than an inch it's fine. I dont care how powerfull my phone is

        That mostly describes me as well, but I would add updates! A removable battery would be a huge plus too.

        I know I could try rooting it and taking charge, but I really didn't want to mess with that and I wasn't sure whether to trust any instructions I found on the internet.

        I had given up on ever getting Marshmallow a few months ago. I almost even bought a new phone just for that, but mine is less than 2 years old and I like it (Droid Turbo).

        And lo and behold I looked at it yesterday and an update was avail

    • The current, last-generation Fairphones are not only fully modular, but all the bits can be dismounted with a single normal screwdriver, and each part can be replaced separately in case of failure (and of course, the battery too).
      My understanding is Fairphone, who started from a more compact model (which I own), evolved this way profiting from the trend to enlarge devices (bigger screens) : this allowed them to design element interfaces that otherwise wouldn't have fit in smaller models.
      And IMHO that was a

    • Hate to say it, but a bad idea in search of a problem...

      If quality phones were $30 or so, I would agree with you. But considering how absurdly expensive a quality phone is, modular parts would be fantastic. The problem here isn't in the concept, but rather in the execution.

      With my PC, I can easily replace:
      1) Memory
      2) Motherboard
      3) Power supply
      4) Storage
      5) Input devices
      6) Output devices
      7) CPU

      I would love to be able to cheaply and easily upgrade or replace the parts of my phone (or tablet) that have become obsolete (or have been damaged or destroyed) without hav

  • by nightfire-unique ( 253895 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @12:24AM (#53615273)

    Of course, the big question is: will they be smart enough to keep the user-replaceable battery?

  • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @12:34AM (#53615289)

    The idea behind the G5 modularity is a good one but their implementation sucked.
    - It is a metal phone that looks plastic. What's the big idea? For phones, plastic is superior in almost all areas except look. LG got is backwards here.
    - Their flagship camera grip module is a failure. You couldn't even turn on the camera using the physical button, and the extra battery was so poorly managed that it is no better than a generic external battery pack.
    - Poor build quality, poor software, and LG doesn't have an especially good track records when it comes to reliability.
    - Not very developer-friendly (locked bootloader, root, etc...). Few people actually care about that but those who are interested in modular phones are more likely to be in this group.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The big issues are threefold:
      Modular hardware either needs to be cheap, or non-proprietary. Neither is true of the Android modular phone concepts since Google pulled out.
      The modules would need to be in standardized formfactors to benefit the consumer. Standardized formfactors also standardizes large portions of the device real estate. See pre-netbook/cloud laptops and their general layouts due to Peripheral Ports+PCMCIA/Expresscard+Optical Drive+Floppy (for the early ones!) Very few were able to differentia

      • You hit the nail in the head!
        non-standard modules is a big no-no, motorola is also trying to get a modular phone going with moto z, but the modules are made by them, and only work it that phone, so they are hard to come by, expensive, and you cannot use them after an upgrade or if you change phones. I was really excited by project ara, but then google for some reason decided that changing the screen and chipset would not be possible and then, for some reason, created modules that were pretty useless like
    • I never owned one, but I liked the idea. I almost got one, did a bunch of research, but went with the LG G4 instead. There were a couple of reasons why, and as you say the implementation was a bit lacking. I think if they kept at it and improved upon it, it could have been a big winner.

      #1: Mods. Where are they? How can I buy them? Scarcity. So far as I am aware there were 3, and you couldn't find them anywhere outside of your initial purchase.
      #2: The biggest and most useful is probably the most boring, that

  • Summary up front: off-topic, but -- I'd had strongly unsatisfactory experiences with LG G3 (D855) in terms of hardware reliability, accordingly I decided not to ever consider LG phones again.

    There were three significant malfunctions during the 1.5 years of the G3's life; two of them were supposedly use-related by practically indicative of bad design (never happened to the same user, me, with a different phone in over a decade); the third and final one was the main board dying.

    Since the first two failures o

    • by dargaud ( 518470 )
      Exact same thing here. Soon after purchase I noticed that the phone was slow: 15 to 45s to switch apps ! After a year it was unusable, burning hot, kept rebooting for no reason, couldn't read the SD card anymore, etc. Fried mobo.
  • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @01:58AM (#53615431) Homepage

    The physical attachment and interface of the Moto series is cool. But the "mods" are all wrong.

    The only reason to be able to detach a module is because you don't want to have to lug it around, so you can detach it. This implies that when you attach to a module, you're explicitly in "I understand that it's bulky and I'm not lugging it around" mode at that moment.

    Yet all the modules are severely compromised because they are still trying to be portable.

    Half-assed mobile speakers in the Moto series. A half-assed digital camera.

    Just take those two examples:

    Instead of mobile speakers, how about a $199 stereo speaker system for a tabletop. Instead of having to fuck around with bluetooth and compromised battery life, the speakers are stationary, a home furnishing. You come and just drop your phone *on* it. Magnets hold it in place. It charges. And the screen comes on to the music player app and plays big, loud, full-sound music. Gotta run? Just yank the phone, now charged, off of it again. Make a boombox the same way—or something big enough (not those speakers) to actually make some sound and take to a beach party. Those things I'd be interested in. Tiny-ass speakers? Why am I going to lug around an extra thing for sound that's still basically one person big?

    Same thing with the camera. A 12 megapixel 1 2/3" sensor. THAT'S A CAMERA PHONE ALL OVER AGAIN. I love the idea of a proper shutter button and a flash, but if your built-in camera is already not good enough, why slap an extra, bulky module on the back that... gives you another camera phone sensor? WTF? If you're willing to carry a camera, you're willing to carry a camera. So build one that's a centimeter thicker and has a full 1" sensor in it, and another one that is three centimeters thicker and looks like a DSLR camera body and can mount Micro Four Thirds lenses. It's just got a gap on the back where you can stick your phone, snap, with a magnet. Do so an the phone automatically goes into camera mode. You can mount pro lenses, and when you shoot, it stores on your camera SD card and you have all the photos available to cloud, apps, etc. without having to download from a proper camera or futz around with "camera wifi" that never works. As a shooter, I'd be interested in *both* of those camera modules. But not a bulky camera module that is just a camera phone all over again, so that you double the thickness and weight for (drum roll) the same crap cameraphone sensor that you have without the module.

    I don't think it's a tech fail, and I do think that there is a market for modularity, but it's not in this "half as portable, but still half-functional" module crap. The value is a convenience value, i.e. a better, more capable version of Apple's original iPhone docking port that is magnetic, more capable, communicates with the phone sufficiently to enable tap-free adaptation to new modules, and that has a full-surface (rather than end-port) interface to enhance the physical security of the attachment when made. That's still modular, and it uses the phone as the brain of things to make life easier. I'd pay for that.

    But I won't pay for extra for a phone just so that I can use "modules" when the modules are expensive, highly compromised, bulky things that I don't want. I have to want the modules to want a modular phone. A tiny speaker, a crap camera, etc. are not modules that I want, and extended batteries are already out there.

    • I agree with your statements about the camera and speaker modules, but there's more to it than that. The point is swapping and customization. Aside from the fact that the camera mod sucks, a hobbyist photographer would love to just keep that kind of thing on their phone mostly all the time. The biggest complaint from DLSR users is that they hardly ever have it on them when they need it. Not a photographer? Get a different mod. Almost everyone would appreciate a bigger battery mod. Someone might just want sw
    • Instead of having to fuck around with bluetooth and compromised battery life

      Bluetooth has improved since you last tried it in 1999. The idea that having to physically dock your phone is better than having it work wireless is nuts.

      • So bluetooth is a charging technology now?

        • So bluetooth is a charging technology now?

          No, and it also doesn't do your dishes or read your kids a bedtime story.

          Point is, why tie two unrelated functions together: charging and playing music. Sure, maybe whenever YOU are charging YOU want to listen to music, and whenever YOU are listening to music YOU also want to be charging ... but I don't think that works for most people.

          What if my phone is already charged, and I want to say, read a message from my spouse? I have to walk across the house and find it on the speaker dock?

  • The new replacement for the Compute Stick could have been an attractive idea for a 'modular' form factor, if they would make it run on very low power. Just have your screen, basic controls, cellular radio, and a battery, and then slap the new Compute Card over it. Instead of having to buy a whole new phone, you just drop in an upgraded Compute Card.

    Oh well. Someone might take this idea and run with it.

  • A keyboard. Change out the back, add a little extra battery juice, and give me back a sliding keyboard in the mode of the Motorola D4. Then, old farts could finally type again whilst in the field.

  • A) which is why i didn't buy the G5 (I have a G4) I didn't think it would last more than 1 or 2 market cycles

    B) modular design is a long term commitment by all parties

    C) which is why I believe that as long as folks make Smart TV they are doing consumers a huge disfavor... People can keep "screens" for 5, 10, 15+ years or more.. and the "smart" features will hit "the wall" before then. So I'm sure the TV companies will be happy if we replace or screens sooner, than later.

    BUT that is why consumers must deman

  • by short ( 66530 ) on Friday January 06, 2017 @09:42AM (#53616657) Homepage
    What about to make a new QWERTY phone after 7+ years [wikipedia.org]. No BlackBerry [indianexpress.com] - it needs to have a keyboard on its longer side, have landscape display and have physical arrow keys. More extra keys for shifts+symbols are a plus.
  • It seems like ALL these projects are killed off before they're ever even really released to the market. Or hey, we released a phone and we have two basic modules (extended battery and IR remote) with more to come, someday...okay....never.

    But darn it, I am TIRED of thin phones with small batteries. Give me a module phone system where I can stick a battery module that will last 2+ days of use rather than a few hours. Give me a module that lets me output 5.1 surround sound. Module for RAID5 SD card storage

    • by IMightB ( 533307 )

      Yeah, um no. While I am tired of thin phones ith small batteries as well, there simply no way I'm going to take a bulky DSLR attachment for my phone anywhere. I'd rather take a bulky DSLR to take real pictures. same with RAID, Audio, etc.etc. the phones today are good enough for joe avg. but when you actually want quality something, a dedicated device will always be superior.

      I swear to God the first time I buy a concert ticket and the DJ hooks up an iPhone, I'm demanding my money back.

  • They're snapping out their modular products and replacing them with others

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