The Most Important New Smartphone Feature Is A Little Magic Slot

The Most Important New Smartphone Feature Is a Little Magic Slot

When LG announced its new flagship smartphone, the G5, at Mobile World Congress, it did something radically different. At the base of the phone, LG built a small slot that might just change everything. Here's how the thing works:

The Most Important New Smartphone Feature Is a Little Magic Slot

This new slot gives LG the distinction of being the only all-metal smartphone with a removable battery — something that even its chief rivals, Samsung and Apple, have failed to achieve. But the slot also makes the G5 a first of something else, something much more exciting.

Entirely new gadget modules, like a camera grip or a hi-fi DAC can be inserted into the G5's battery slot, enabling the phone to do much more than browse Facebook and send emails. The result is what you could call a modular smartphone. Though it's not quite as crazy as Google's Project Ara prototype, it's still more futuristic than anything we've actually seen in the wild.

The idea of a modular smartphone has always been peculiar to me. Smartphones are a technology that clears away gadget clutter, and replaces all the tech we used to own: Mp3 players, point-and-shoot cameras, and pocket calculators were all rendered useless once we started carrying smartphones. So the idea of creating a Lego-like phone, which requires you to own lots of different modules and gadgets, always seemed counter-intuitive.

The delays that plagued Project Ara, Google's own approach to modular phones, left me feeling vindicated. This wasn't a future we were ready for just yet. But yesterday at Mobile World Congress, LG changed everything.

The Most Important New Smartphone Feature Is a Little Magic SlotLG's camera module comes with an extra battery and manual camera controls.

If Project Ara was an ambitious attempt to redefine the smartphone as a modular gadget, the G5 is a realistic leap towards that vision. LG seems to understand that its first two modules aren't going to set the world on fire. An LG spokesperson told me more accessories are coming, but the G5 will launch this spring with only a small pool of add-ons to choose from.

And that's totally fine. The LG G5 can still be a technical success so long as it gets people thinking that a smartphone can do more than browse the web and send emails. A phone that changes with you and your interests over time is an intriguing and powerful idea.

Of course, LG isn't doing all of this for altruistic reasons. Smartphone accessories have always been big business (just ask Apple), and if LG could stoke this tiny hardware flame into an all-consuming inferno, they'd be seeing dollar signs.

But the G5 isn't a revolution in itself. It's simply asking "what if?" and waiting to see what happens. The G5 is certainly the beginning of something different, but who knows if it's something anyone even wants.


Comments

    "something that even its chief rivals, Samsung and Apple, have failed to achieve"

    Um, chosen to avoid you mean.

    Completely agree! Its not about this phone, but about the possibilities and the follow ups by otther manufacturers.. this is a new era of Smart phone betterment..

    BTW isnt that module suposed to come out after pressing a button? (Unlike the way its done in the GIF)

      Yeah, thats what I was thinking as well. The third party market for addons is largely ignored, and has reduced down to phone holders, chargers, and other basic things. If there was a market for actual addons that increased real functionality, its a whole new market to exploit.

      I can only see that as a win/win situation.

      I like the idea of the Ara too, for similar reasons, but perhaps that will be going TOO far, and we ultimately end up with more or less pre-packaged combo's that the telco's put together for our convenience.

      Kinda like PC's, where you either get a pre-packaged setup, or build it yourself.

    I like the concept. On many occasions, a phone gets looked over because it isnt quite there with the camera, or doesnt quite do the job, so to be able to tweak it just a little to add that one bit of functionality thats missing is a good thing for me.

    "Mp3 players, point-and-shoot cameras, and pocket calculators were all rendered useless once we started carrying smartphones." My phone was doing those things a decade before smartphones became popular. Yet, I still have mp3 players (more now than ever, in fact), I still do most maths in my head and I just bought my first camera in 15 years.

      Welcome to digital photography.

      (Digital cameras 15 years ago were so crap -even then- that they weren't worth having.)

    The problem I see with this, is that one day the phone is going to have issues (these devices tend to not last terribly long), so you end up buying a new model, and then all those extra modules you bought won't fit your new phone.

      This could be why all other manufacturers have avoided doing such things. LG have now essentially locked themselves into 1 design for a long time, if they are serious about getting 3rd party modules.

      Exactly. In the not too distant future:

      "Hi, I need a replacement camera module for my G5"
      "Oh, the G5 - sorry, the new UHD 8K camera module isn't compatible with the old G5"
      "But my phone is less than 2 years old??"
      "I know, you should really consider replacing it with the current model, the G7 is so much better".
      "There's nothing wrong with my phone. Do you have any older camera modules?"
      "Sorry, none in stock. The G7 also comes in Teal - it looks amazing."
      "I don't need 8K, can you order in the old module?
      Looks like there's none available in the warehouse, not sure if they're making them anymore - but check out these 8K photos on 75 inch display tv, the detail is amazing.
      "Uh, ok, does the G7 have the VR and Scanner modules I use?
      No, but I'm sure they'll be out soon, I'd contact the manufacturer directly - would you like the black, white or the amazing Teal?
      Huh? But they're LG modules that I bought here?? Um, I don't really want a new phone, besides haven't the cables have changed as well?
      You can still use your old cables, they'll charge the G7.
      So why are there new cables?
      You only need the new cables if you want to transfer data to and from phone faster than USB2, oh and the new charger to use fast charging. Plus I think there's some syncing issues with the old cable - I definitely wouldn't recommmend using the old ones. Most people just buy the new cables. Oh look, we have 128GB Teal models in stock...

    Good point to stand out. will this make the phone quite heavy?

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