LG has announced that it's releasing the hardware and software development kits for creating modules and software for its G5 Android smartphone. That's essential for the chances of creating an ecosystem of hardware "Friends" around the phone — as it will allow third party developers to create and (presumably) sell their own gadgets.
While that's all well and good, the ecosystem of modules won't be as free and open as the Android ecosystem. That's because LG's developer website for the "Friends" is pretty clear that developers need to get permission from LG and co-develop with the company. LG says that "We will carefully review all submitted ideas and select the best ones to be co-developed by LG and the idea proposer together based on the mutual agreement." In case it's not clear enough that LG gets to select what will and won't work with the G5, here's another passage from their Q&A:
Q. Does the Modular Friends require co-development with LG?
A. Yes. Modular Friends should be co-developed with us because it affects smartphone's performance and design significantly.
If you'd prefer this message be delivered in the form of adorable chubby green cats, LG has you covered:
Asking developers to make a significant investment in developing hardware modules for the G5 is going to be a hard sell, given what most expect the G5's marketshare is going to be. But now, after clearing that hurdle, developers now need to clear the hurdle of convincing LG to co-develop their idea. And even if LG accepts all ideas, it still is going to slow down development compared to a more open ecosystem. And for the G5 to be successful, it really needs to be wildly successful, at least compared to previous LG smartphones. As always in the smartphone market, it's up against the likes of Samsung, Apple, and even HTC — none of which are asking consumers to trust in a whole new accessory scheme in the first place.
LG is plowing ahead with the co-development plan, though. The company is holding a developer conference on April 15th in San Francisco.