As much as I liked LG’s 2016 flagship, the G5, it seems no one much else did. What was a technically capable phone inside simply failed to sell; it didn’t look as polished as other phones released this year, and the modular system — though quirky — can only really be considered almost a complete flop. Really the only thing that was rather popular was the replaceable battery. The 360 Camera was good, but not marketed aggressively at all, and the other modules were all but invisible. Some of LG’s own staff admitted, not long after the launch in fact, that some of the modules were of fairly poor quality. On this, I can probably agree; the 360 VR goggles were pretty awful, and the CAM Plus module was a good idea, but poorly implemented; a scroll wheel for zoom, instead of something more traditional like shutter speed or aperture? Madness.
Anyway, I’m not alone. The market panned the LG G5, and reviewers didn’t rate it much higher (though I did love its dual-lens arrangement with the wide-angle option). According to a report out of Korea this weekend, in a very unsurprising move, LG will ditch the idea of modules next year. Though many years of work went into developing the modular concept, LG has to offer what the market is asking for, and if the market wants modules, it didn’t want them the way LG did it.
Not only did customers not buy the modular phone / ecosystem, but LG even received a number of complaints about the modular system; the modules were hard to remove from the phone, and hard to attach. We can confirm this; it really does feel like you’re about to break the phone when you remove the bottom housing. When your staff at Mobile World are struggling to get it apart and put it back together, you know something isn’t right. Personally, I got used to it, but it remained unnatural feeling.
LG’s move leaves the Moto Z as the only really modular phone on the market. Google’s modular Project Ara never really materialised, and LG’s Friends are now all but gone. Will we see other brands adopt the modular approach next year, or was it something that we just didn’t really need?