On October 29 ,2013 an idea was born and not only was it going to be a great innovation but something that could’ve changed the whole smartphone industry and earned extreme profits in a very foreseeable future. But, just when everyone expected it to make an appearance in the market, it died! A supergiant like Google called off their ultimate PROJECT ARA
On 2 September 2016. Why? You ask? Its actually not clear at all. There are numerous theories and guesses around this, but none seems satisfying enough. Meanwhile, Motorola(Lenovo) and LG came up with their own concepts of added functionality with Moto Z and G5 respectively. Motorola smartly named their functional and hot swappable back covers as “Moto Mods”. Does this suggest modularity? Or is naming a funky attachment mechanism of functional accessories very similar to ‘MODular’ just a very well planned marketing gimmick? Lets explore.
To answer the above question, first we need to understand what exactly is Modularity?
According to a Google search, “Modularity is the degree to which a system’s components may be separated and recombined.” Going by this definition Moto Z fails to be a modular device. Well, Project ARA was. This simply means the existing components should be separable. While Moto Z is a standalone device too, but if there are no Back Latches attached, the phone functions just fine. These back latches do not actually replace the existing things and thus can’t be classified as recombination. LG G5 on the other hand needed separation for it to work, which makes it closer to the modularity definition but infact is more of an inconvenience for the end user making the companions named “friends” rather unfriendly. All in all they actually somehow MODIFY the device. Basically, modularity should REPLACE existing functionality rather than just extending it.
Let us try and dive deeper into EACH Moto Mod and some Friends to see which phone actually is closer to Modularity, now that we know none is EXACTLY modular.
Moto MODS SPECIFIC
Incipio Off Grid Power Mod
It is basically a Battery pack which EXTENDS the battery life by getting attached to your existing battery. This seems exactly like a Mophie Juice Pack or Apple’s extended battery case for the iPhone. The fact that it just EXTENDS the functionality makes it less Modular and more of a Modification
It is basically a more streamlined version of the existing project bar and not very different than a cabled projector. What’s different is it feels more unified and ADDS a function, which is again Modification
JBL SoundBoost Speaker and Upcoming Moto Mod Camera(hassleband)
This is what does the trick in my view, both JBL speaker and Moto Mods Camera seem just right, as they actually REPLACE the existing camera and speakers with a 10x camera lens and a better speaker. The existing hardware doesn’t work, ONLY these modules work.
LG G5’s Hi-Fi Plus DAC
Dibs on the winning spot here, This hits the sweet spot between both these definitions as it requires disassembly and recombination along with fully replacing the existing functionality rather than just extending or modifying it.
Having said all this, the question is actually unanswerable and would be a topic of discussion for days to come. Is modularity a reality now? Or is it dead with Project ARA for the time being? For us the recombination feels more modular in LG G5 but the Camera and Speaker moto mods also seem to fit in. Truly speaking, until we have the project ARA in hand we can’t really establish a proper comparison. What do you think is modularity? Which phone in your view feels more modular? Cast your vote in the comments section below.