Modular, The Future Of Mobile Technology
Despite being the largest tech platform in the world, the mobile phone industry has plateaued. The problem? Assimilation. Every handset looks like every other handset out there and they all perform the same functions. With so much sameness, there is no room for growth. In order to survive as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), you need
Published: Tuesday, July 19th 2016
Despite being the largest tech platform in the world, the mobile phone industry has plateaued. The problem? Assimilation. Every handset looks like every other handset out there and they all perform the same functions. With so much sameness, there is no room for growth.
In order to survive as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), you need vast resources or you need to convince companies with deep pockets to invest in your product. As a consumer, your choice comes down to which brand name is most appealing to you.
With all devices what you’re now getting is not innovation, it’s a veiled statement that your choices in technology are no longer your own, they’re decided by the brands that you choose to buy into.
Is there room for a much-needed smartphone revolution? A shift so big that it changes the way we view not only smartphones but technology as a whole.
This is exactly what modular smartphones are hoping to achieve.
What are modular phones though?
Imagine purchasing a basic phone but then being able to customise it as far as choosing what type of camera, display, speaker(s) you have to even choose how much memory you would like your handset to have.
That’s exactly what modular phones are promising, a means to make your phone truly your phone, where your technology adapts to you instead of you having to adapt to it.
This concept might sound like a pipe dream, but there are actually quite a few companies who are working on their own interpretation of modular phones.
Google’s Project Ara aspires to be not only the first handset made by the search giant, but also the poster child for the modular movement.
Ara has been a concept for many years but this year (2016) saw the first working prototypes.
The in-box unit will consist of a working endoskeleton with a display, processor, speakers and RAM baked in, meaning that at least with the first consumer version of the handset, you won’t be able to change those particular components.
You will, however, be able to swap out things such as the camera.
A developer version of the handset is expected to ship later this year with a consumer edition expected to ship in 2017.
Once a mobile phone powerhouse, Motorola has stepped back into the spotlight in a big way when they unveiled the new Z series at Lenovo World 2016.
A different take on the modular movement, the Z series comprises of two Android smartphones which both have what the company calls Moto Mods - a series of backplates which allow you to add additional functionality to your handset.
With Moto Mods, you can add a mini-projector, better sound or a battery pack by simply placing a new backplate on your device, all without having to power down your phone or slide out any bits and pieces.
Not quite the same as Project Ara, Motorola’s Z series feels like more of an introduction to the modular concept than a fully modular device.
When LG introduced the G5 to the world at Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, the company was incredibly proud of the fact that you could swap out the bottom of the handset with a series of components which they call “Friends”.
By pushing a button on the side of the phone and then removing the bottom, you can slot in a DAC (Digital to Audio Convertor) module made in conjunction with Bang&Olufsen or a camera grip.
Modular is certainly a great concept, the problem it faces is that every OEM has their own interpretation of what modular should be and that means that makers of the various components are going to be hard pressed to decide which devices to create parts for.
Is modular the revolutionary new way forward? Only time will tell. For now, hardware manufacturers need to find a means of creating modular devices that actually make sense to the consumer market and modular technology surely seems the way to go.