When the LG G5 was announced a couple of months ago during Mobile World Congress, I was impressed. The design is completely fresh and new, and that’s something I feel we don’t come across often in this industry anymore. Its “modular type” design seems to be a good stepping stone between what we have now and true modular smartphones, such as Project Ara, that we expect to see in the future. You can mod a couple of aspects of the G5, but not too much so that you’re overwhelmed.
A lot of people seemed excited about the G5 when it was announced, but the tone changed quickly once reviewers got their hands on them. Certain aspects of the design seemed cheap (gaps between removable bottom edge and the rest of the device, dings in the aluminum body, not to mention the aluminum body doesn’t feel like aluminum due to a primer coating) and, as it turns out, people aren’t really all that giddy about interchangeable modules. At the time this article is written, there are currently two available: the LG Cam Plus, which also doubles as a battery pack, and the Hi-Fi Plus, which is a DAC module for an improved audio experience.
It might not be the modules themselves that are the problem; after all, it’s not like the LG G5 itself doesn’t have a good camera or audio system. Both seem to work perfectly well on their own. These modules exist for the camera and audio enthusiasts out there. The biggest problem seems to be with the method used to switch the modules. While the LG G5 features a removable battery – a feature that is still desired by many – the way you remove the battery (and install modules) is weird. To remove the battery, you slide off the bottom end of the device and either replace the battery or insert a module. It sounds simple enough, but it would seem that simply sliding off the bottom edge of the device is somewhat of a struggle. It makes some sense, because you don’t want the attachment to be so loose that you accidentally pop it off and have your battery fall out. On the other hand, switching out modules now becomes a hassle because you’re afraid you might break your $700 investment.
LG was bold with the G5, but that boldness comes at a price. Being that this is the first of its kind, it probably isn’t reasonable to expect that everything about it would be perfect. I still think the G5 is a good device, and while its modular type aspect may not be the strongest selling point now, it might be in the future depending on how well development goes. But seeing how people react to G5, which is only partially modular, changes my view on how big Project Ara could ever become.
I can’t tell if it’s just the way the G5 is designed or the fact that it does involve a little bit of elbow grease to “upgrade” certain components of your phone that make people feel so “meh” about it. Maybe it’s a little bit of both. Although I have been super excited about Project Ara, I think that modular design may just be too much of a hassle for most people at the end of the day. I’ve asked around to my friends and family who don’t care about phones what they think of the G5, and the end result is a resounding, “I’d rather go with something that has everything put together for me.” And while that’s just a small sample of people, it makes me think that Project Ara, which is supposed to be fully modular, will only ever be a niche product.
I’m still following Project Ara, although I’ve given up hope that we’ll see it come to fruition before next year. But after seeing how the G5 was received, I’m no longer convinced that it – or any device like it – will become wildly popular anytime soon.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the LG G5? Do you like its “modular type” design, or do you prefer your phone to come all-inclusive? Do you think that the response to the G5 is at all reflective of how Project Ara will do? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!