First Click: Is LG's G5 a gimmick or modular revolution?

February 26th, 2016

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I’m delighted by what LG’s done with its new modular G5 flagship. While the rest of the smartphone industry is busy churning out slightly better rectangles each year, LG created something new which could be an epiphany instead of a commodity. But I’m still not sure it’s the phone I’d buy if I was shopping for an Android handset in the next few months.

Vlad Savov thinks it’s awesome, which is already high praise from a man who’s tested every top phone from the last decade. “The G5 is LG’s best ever phone and its Friends are the reason why,” he said in a 600-word love letter on Monday. He’s probably right, but is it better than, say, Samsung’s new Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge, which both lack LG’s assortment of plug-in “Friends” modules?

I love the idea of modular phones. But that love’s somewhat rooted in the idea that the modules can be reused with a variety of new phones as they arrive. After all, that’s one of the benefits of modular electronics: the ability to pick and choose the capability of individual components to best match our needs over time.

Unfortunately, LG won’t tell us if the Friends that slot directly into the bottom of the G5 will be compatible with its future phones. And so far, we don’t have pricing for the two plug-ins demonstrated: the Cam Plus camera grip and extended battery, and the Hi-Fi Plus 32-bit DAC and amplifier combo. Both of which could conceivably be useful for years if a fresh batch of compatible smartphone bodies were to be produced every 12 to 24 months. Understandably, perhaps, LG’s only willing to commit to "reasonable" pricing and to talk of an entire ecosystem of Friends accessories should the concept succeed. Will it, when the G5 and Friends go on sale in April? Let’s poll the internet and find out!

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