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Re: Google's modular phone

Postby engelhjs » May 24th, 2016, 12:31 pm


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Pretty telling that the entire video doesn't show a single screen other than the small e-ink display on the back of a few of the phones. Everyone in that video sets their phone screen-down and only interacts with the back of the phone. Granted they're trying to highlight all the fancy modules, but I'd bet money their latest proto doesn't have a working touch display anymore. Remember 10 years ago when every design student in the world (myself included) had a modular smartphone concept in their portfolio? And all of their professors told them was it a pipe dream that couldn't work? And we all thought they were just being naive about technology? Turns out they were right. Even the Googles of the world can't get it to work.
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Re: Google's modular phone

Postby Azrehan » May 24th, 2016, 9:22 pm

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I love the idea of added on speakers or microphones for music recording and playing. I'm a musician and would love to be able to record better sound and listen and play back (jam, if you will) without plugging in to a secondary listening device. I have a big jambox, but it's not always ready and charged when I need it. I've tried apple tv airplay, but this has huge lag, and a 3.5mm to rca jack to my stereo keeps me chained to a room. It would be great to take an acoustic guitar out to the forest and record some multi track guitar parts.

It would also be cool to be able to go to a friend's concert and record a few songs for them on your phone that didn't sound like a rat in a tin can so they can put them on youtube.

I can see other huge benefits with this design from input DI devices to plug in a guitar or midi synth (like I can with the camera connection kit on my ipad, but better) to wide angle or macro lenses for photographers, even little selfie screens on the back so you can see what you are taking.

Re: Google's modular phone

Postby Cyberdemon » May 25th, 2016, 4:35 pm

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Azrehan wrote:I love the idea of added on speakers or microphones for music recording and playing. I'm a musician and would love to be able to record better sound and listen and play back (jam, if you will) without plugging in to a secondary listening device. I have a big jambox, but it's not always ready and charged when I need it. I've tried apple tv airplay, but this has huge lag, and a 3.5mm to rca jack to my stereo keeps me chained to a room. It would be great to take an acoustic guitar out to the forest and record some multi track guitar parts.

It would also be cool to be able to go to a friend's concert and record a few songs for them on your phone that didn't sound like a rat in a tin can so they can put them on youtube.

I can see other huge benefits with this design from input DI devices to plug in a guitar or midi synth (like I can with the camera connection kit on my ipad, but better) to wide angle or macro lenses for photographers, even little selfie screens on the back so you can see what you are taking.


The general problem with small speakers is they only have so much response, regardless of how many you have.

Phones have already done a decent job of this by building 2 big speakers in and working to create as much back volume as they can in a tiny space.

For things like recording a concert - they already have accessories like this:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1 ... phone.html which you can tell would never properly fit into a tiny rectangular footprint of a module anyways.

Being able to scale out the bottom of the device means you can create almost any size peripheral and still have it work. That's challenging when you're left with a ~60 x 60 x 5mm block.

Re: Google's modular phone

Postby yo » May 25th, 2016, 5:33 pm

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When I was at Nike there was a small group that was obsessed with making a modular shoe.... then we realized the shoe itself was a modular part of the person's attire for the day.

I see phones in much the same way. All of the tech is updating so fast, the benefits of modularity seem to be outweighed by the need to replace the entire unit. I think the focus should be in the opposite way. If the tech only lasts 18 months, why not focus more on recyclability?

And yes, an full accessory mic or speaker is going to blow away any dedicated module. And for manufactures it makes so much more sense. Why make a dedicated mic module or speaker module that works with one phone when you can make a BT speaker, mic, camera whatever, that works with every phone? The only phone that has the numbers to make a dedicated module make sense for a 3rd party is the iPhone and maybe a couple of the Samsungs. The numbers likely barely pencil out for a phone case for the rest of them.

Re: Google's modular phone

Postby bcpid » May 25th, 2016, 11:23 pm


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The concept reeks of solutions in search of problems. Also, you'll need unique housings for all the components, and it's kind of a beast aesthetically. I sort of feel like smartphones and computers maxed out their utility several years ago - the problems had largely been solved, at least well enough that any additional gains in performance and functionality since 2010 or so have been marginal. They're all pretty fast, they all do a lot, and they fit in my pocket. Done. They're pure commodity at this point, just like cars and almost every other manufactured object. Value creation has its limits.

Re: Google's modular phone

Postby yo » May 26th, 2016, 4:04 pm

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@bcpid I don't disagree with the theme of what you are saying, but I think you are confusing a commodity with a mature product category.

A mature product category is one where the function and form factor is pretty defined, but there is a large spectrum of price between the commodity market segment and the premium market segment. The commodity end of the market fights on price to feature ratio while the premium segment competes on status and perceived quality.

A commodity dominated market is one where the commodity segment has taken over the entire spectrum and products only compete on the price to feature ratio. For example, band aids. The price gap is quite small, there are a few more expensive options, but largely people are not brand loyal and just buy what they feel like at the moment when they are in the store. TV's are largely going through this.

Phones are not quite a commodity but perhaps the argument could be made that they are becoming one. People typically do not pay anywhere near the full price. There is some loyalty based on ecosystem and brand (apple), and there are incremental advancements in camera quality, memory, screen resolution.... but overall it is becoming more mature.

Cars are definitely not a commodity, the price spectrum is radically broad with the most expensive options costing 20x+ the entry level options. It was a very mature market, but you can smell the disruption ready to spring from the edges.

And that is a pretty common cycle. Some markets go from ground breaking, to mature, to commodity, to disruptive again as a new player comes in. Look at watches. Radical price, brand, design, and quality differentiation. Functionally all tell time. Very mature, to the point where many people stop wearing the commodity options while others invest more in the premium options as status.... will the smart watch flip it upside down? It may. Hard to say yet. The connectivity between watch and phone needs to improve, the battery life needs to improve as well as the primary UX.... if those things happen they probably will disrupt the target market a lot faster than smart glasses.

Re: Google's modular phone

Postby yo » October 23rd, 2016, 9:39 am

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Read this article (on the Apple news app) about the failure of LGs modular phones. Definitely innovative, I just don't think most users want to mess with this stuff.

https://apple.news/AeqVQl4eIMnO7FWeyN4ZNIQ

Don’t expect to see any more modular smartphones from LG

Brad Ward
October 22, 2016 G5 G6 LG V20
lg_logo_green_box_TA

It seems that modularity in smartphones isn’t going so well for LG. After experimenting with it in the LG G5 and hinting that it would come to the successor of the recently released V20, Korea’s Electronic Times is saying that LG is ditching the current concept and going back to its regular design for the upcoming G6.

Details after the break.


This is an intriguing report, considering that LG spokesman Ken Hong told CNET in early September that the company planned to continue experimenting with modularity, despite poor sales performance.



The Electronic Times says, citing industry sources, LG has realized that people don’t like how complex it is to switch modules. Not only that, but the extra money you have to foot on these sometimes pricey components are a huge downside.

From the Electronic Times:

“It is predicted that LG Electronics will push for ‘change within stability’ as it is going back to integral-type Smartphone from modularized Smartphone. LG Electronics is planning to develop its next Smartphone by applying demands from its customers and markets rather than being buried in creating innovations.”
lg_g5_battery_module_out_lifes_good_play_more_TA

The publication also noted that LG is a little bit more than worried about this push back to a regular, integrated smartphone, and for a good reason. The company is worried about losing trust from consumers. After ditching their modular strategy in just a year, this would mean the LG G5 would essentially be useless after LG launches future smartphones without this modular concept. We already aren’t seeing many modules for the phone, and a move like this would essentially mean we won’t be seeing anymore modules at all for the smartphone. It means leaving the LG G5 dead in the water, and thus, losing their customers’ trust.


It’s a concern to take into heavy consideration, but at the same time, sales performance was down so much that the shift in gears is necessary, despite the risks. It will put LG in a better position in the future.

But, now that Google has cancelled Project Ara and LG is ditching its modular phone strategy, it seems Lenovo owns the modular market with the Moto Z, for whatever that’s worth.

Maybe the LG G6 isn’t going to be so bad after all, now that we’re getting rid of those meaningless modules.



Take this as an example te next time anyone tells you ID is dying and people will design their own products and print them on 3D printers. Remind them the most users don't even want to swap out a camera module. This is not an indictment on users, meerly an observation. The behavior may change over time, but like all human behavior, it will change slowly. I've been involved with several modular projects over the last 20 years, only the most recent has been a success and still the modular attach rate is probably less than 10% in a product category that is oriented toward tech and performance enthusiasts.

As designers do you think we should keep exploring modularity in projects where it seems to make sense conceptually?

Re: Google's modular phone

Postby Cyberdemon » October 24th, 2016, 8:49 am

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yo wrote:Read this article (on the Apple news app) about the failure of LGs modular phones. Definitely innovative, I just don't think most users want to mess with this stuff.

https://apple.news/AeqVQl4eIMnO7FWeyN4ZNIQ

Don’t expect to see any more modular smartphones from LG

Brad Ward
October 22, 2016 G5 G6 LG V20
lg_logo_green_box_TA

It seems that modularity in smartphones isn’t going so well for LG. After experimenting with it in the LG G5 and hinting that it would come to the successor of the recently released V20, Korea’s Electronic Times is saying that LG is ditching the current concept and going back to its regular design for the upcoming G6.

Details after the break.


This is an intriguing report, considering that LG spokesman Ken Hong told CNET in early September that the company planned to continue experimenting with modularity, despite poor sales performance.



The Electronic Times says, citing industry sources, LG has realized that people don’t like how complex it is to switch modules. Not only that, but the extra money you have to foot on these sometimes pricey components are a huge downside.

From the Electronic Times:

“It is predicted that LG Electronics will push for ‘change within stability’ as it is going back to integral-type Smartphone from modularized Smartphone. LG Electronics is planning to develop its next Smartphone by applying demands from its customers and markets rather than being buried in creating innovations.”
lg_g5_battery_module_out_lifes_good_play_more_TA

The publication also noted that LG is a little bit more than worried about this push back to a regular, integrated smartphone, and for a good reason. The company is worried about losing trust from consumers. After ditching their modular strategy in just a year, this would mean the LG G5 would essentially be useless after LG launches future smartphones without this modular concept. We already aren’t seeing many modules for the phone, and a move like this would essentially mean we won’t be seeing anymore modules at all for the smartphone. It means leaving the LG G5 dead in the water, and thus, losing their customers’ trust.


It’s a concern to take into heavy consideration, but at the same time, sales performance was down so much that the shift in gears is necessary, despite the risks. It will put LG in a better position in the future.

But, now that Google has cancelled Project Ara and LG is ditching its modular phone strategy, it seems Lenovo owns the modular market with the Moto Z, for whatever that’s worth.

Maybe the LG G6 isn’t going to be so bad after all, now that we’re getting rid of those meaningless modules.



Take this as an example te next time anyone tells you ID is dying and people will design their own products and print them on 3D printers. Remind them the most users don't even want to swap out a camera module. This is not an indictment on users, meerly an observation. The behavior may change over time, but like all human behavior, it will change slowly. I've been involved with several modular projects over the last 20 years, only the most recent has been a success and still the modular attach rate is probably less than 10% in a product category that is oriented toward tech and performance enthusiasts.

As designers do you think we should keep exploring modularity in projects where it seems to make sense conceptually?


Modularity is great in many areas. The existence of modularity is what allowed personal computers to thrive into existence and become an entire industry beyond just "Would you like an Apple, or an IBM Computer?"

For commodity markets like smartphones there are too many other drivers (specifically cost, performance and size) which make modularity a bigger burden than anything it can offer.

More often than not, modularity really makes sense from a manufacturing standpoint, and much less from the consumer standpoint. Cars built on modular architectures for examples are a great way of delivering consistent quality and features across a wide range of products, but you don't expect your end user to start pulling out the engines and putting in new ones. From a manufacturing standpoint sometimes using common architectures is also a benefit in reduced R&D costs which outweigh the additional BOM cost for each product. Spending a few dollars per product if you can save $10 million in R&D is probably a no brainer, especially in low volume industries.

Modularity on things like PC's, SLR cameras, power tools, or a Go-Pro accessory ecosystem all make perfect sense. You know that your user has very specific and unique requirements that can be best addressed by a specific solution, and they are willing to pay for the fact that their solution will be different from someone elses. The guy who wants the best camera for surfing will live with the fact that his camera may be slightly bulkier than the one that someone uses for mountain biking.

Re: Google's modular phone

Postby Generatewhatsnext » October 24th, 2016, 9:17 am

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It seems the idea of customization at the consumer level is entirely too much for today's users (aside from the maker community, students and online purchasing (NIKEid, MOTO and others)).

Why have we trained the latest Generations that today's products can be tossed out? At least with the latest two Generations we've also instilled a sense of requirement that tossing things out requires thought as to their destination.

This personally bothers me, as I use products, fix them when they break and then disassemble and recycle them at the end of serviceability - the time I spend doing those things is acceptable to my Generation (GenX) and the ones before it, but not for Y or Z. They seem to just want someone else to take care of it.

For you students out there (surely you already have these memorized);
Gen Z or Centennials: Born 1996 and later
Millennials or Gen Y: Born 1977 to 1995
Generation X: Born 1965 to 1976
Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964
Traditionalists or Silent Generation: Born 1945 and before

Five years ago, I was excited that if a piece broke on my sink faucet or my TV remote, I'd soon be able to go to the manufacturer's website, find the part, download the 3D file and hit 'print' - to fix it. But our consumer lifestyle has completely prevented that from coming to fruition, hasn't it?
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Re: Google's modular phone

Postby yo » October 24th, 2016, 1:22 pm

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Cyberdemon wrote:More often than not, modularity really makes sense from a manufacturing standpoint, and much less from the consumer standpoint. Cars built on modular architectures for examples are a great way of delivering consistent quality and features across a wide range of products, but you don't expect your end user to start pulling out the engines and putting in new ones. From a manufacturing standpoint sometimes using common architectures is also a benefit in reduced R&D costs which outweigh the additional BOM cost for each product. Spending a few dollars per product if you can save $10 million in R&D is probably a no brainer, especially in low volume industries.

Modularity on things like PC's, SLR cameras, power tools, or a Go-Pro accessory ecosystem all make perfect sense. You know that your user has very specific and unique requirements that can be best addressed by a specific solution, and they are willing to pay for the fact that their solution will be different from someone elses. The guy who wants the best camera for surfing will live with the fact that his camera may be slightly bulkier than the one that someone uses for mountain biking.


Mike

Thanks for clarifying. Obviously I'm talking solely about consumer based modularity where the onus is on users to purchase and augment. Manufacturing based modularity, what we call platforming where I work, is just how portfolio road-mapping is done from my perspective. You have to do it to get economies of scale and it does take a lot of forethought to ensure differentiation.

MD

Re: Google's modular phone

Postby Cyberdemon » October 24th, 2016, 2:18 pm

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yo wrote:Mike

Thanks for clarifying. Obviously I'm talking solely about consumer based modularity where the onus is on users to purchase and augment. Manufacturing based modularity, what we call platforming where I work, is just how portfolio road-mapping is done from my perspective. You have to do it to get economies of scale and it does take a lot of forethought to ensure differentiation.

MD


Agreed - I brought it up though because many times designers are the ones pushing for those architectural decisions. We had a lot of examples where the modularity of the architecture (for example a computer which could be split apart to pair with different power sources, different displays, and different silicon platforms) was driven from the ID side because it became a unique user proposition by deconstructing the hardware - vs just a cost saving and engineering measure upfront.

I always wondered how the Black and Decker Matrix tools sell compared to normal tools. Not sure if the modularity is a plus, or if the needs of each tool are too different that people want specific tools for each.

http://www.blackanddecker.com/products/ ... ies/matrix

Re: Google's modular phone

Postby rkuchinsky » October 24th, 2016, 3:27 pm

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I happen to be currently working on a modular project so here's my 0.2$ worth-

1. For modularity to work, it needs a real consumer driver that balances out any alternatives. ie. WHY does the user need a modular thing? For specific functions? Personalization? Fit? Comfort? How are those balanced with available options, buying more than 1 thing?

2. A lot of modular concepts I've seen as Mike mentions above seem to be really design drives "because it would be neat/different/cool" and I don't think the use case supports them. Often the need for modularity is greatly exaggerated.

3. The eco-system needs to support it. How do you see the options? Try them? Buy them? Are they in stock? What's the lifetime support of the parts?
Does it make business sense at retail? I've seen a lot of modular concepts fail here because a bricks and mortar retailer doesn't want to stock 100 bits, or options are only online and you can't feel/touch/try them or buy them when you need them. A modular concept has to work more than in theory, it has to deliver the right experience from a consumer/retail POV as well. It doesn't help if I need a specific part for my modular thing and I have to order it online, wait 2 weeks, and pay shipping, only to discover I don't like it when I get it.

4. Do the benefits outweigh any downsides? I've seen lots of modular concepts sink because the inherit downsides (managing/losing bits, hard to change, etc.) are not done well. I saw a shoe (was in actual production 20+ years ago, not just a concept) once with modular heel cushioning unit, butA)You needed a plastic tool to change the heel unit B)I cut my hand open with said tool trying it C)It cost more than the simple alternative of buying 2 pairs of shoes.

That said, I think it the above are addressed and the modularity is central to the reason for being (not just a trick), it can be successful. Anyone remember the Nokia phones with the XPRESSON (?) covers?

R

PS. My final school project 16+ years ago was at one point to be a modular phone.
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Re: Google's modular phone

Postby slippyfish » October 24th, 2016, 4:23 pm

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Generatewhatsnext wrote:It seems the idea of customization at the consumer level is entirely too much for today's users (aside from the maker community, students and online purchasing (NIKEid, MOTO and others)).

Why have we trained the latest Generations that today's products can be tossed out? At least with the latest two Generations we've also instilled a sense of requirement that tossing things out requires thought as to their destination.


I saw one of these Sony TR-72 radios in a museum on my recent trip to northern Japan. This was probably a consumer-level product when it was introduced, but most likely allowed for upgrades/repairs by the end user. I have a hard time thinking that customers of this radio would choose to simply toss it in the trash if something stopped working. They might use it for firewood though, if they were cold!

There are conflicting paradigms on the ecosystems of products, between designers (corporate or consultant, doesn't matter) who are nobly-minded and see the product function as part of a continuum from raw materials to utility, and end users/consumers who "yeah yeah yeah I just want the thing to work".

Modularity implies redundancy as critical components can't be shared, or its not modular, its symbiotic. When boiled down to a small product like a mobile phone how much more plastic walls and connectors have to be included, at what % of cost increase, in order to promise 'future proofing' to a consumer?

(slightly off-topic) - attached photo at bottom is a 'modular' chirashi-sushi, enjoyed in Aomori, Japan. Build your own bowl, ten bucks, upgrade as needed, augment with shoyu and wasabi.


Image

IMG_1274.JPG
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Re: Google's modular phone

Postby Mr-914 » October 25th, 2016, 7:25 am

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+1 Richard

I think all of these ideas could have been killed with 1 good focus group or maybe field testing 10-20 devices and see how people use them.

Where does modularity work: Indeed, it works great on cars and bikes. However, these products are already modular, so it is a small expense to standardize and allow 3rd parties to develop individual components.

Where it doesn't work: When the goal is packaging and cost. We want a cheap phone that is as small, cheap and break-proof as possible. Adding clunky physical interfaces works against these basic goals. Moreover, we all know that processors will be 1.5 times faster with 1.5 times more memory and a 1.5 times higher def. screen in a year. The idea of upgrading just a camera module and not the rest doesn't make sense within that context.
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Re: Google's modular phone

Postby Generatewhatsnext » October 25th, 2016, 7:50 am

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Cyberdemon wrote:I always wondered how the Black and Decker Matrix tools sell compared to normal tools. Not sure if the modularity is a plus, or if the needs of each tool are too different that people want specific tools for each.

http://www.blackanddecker.com/products/ ... ies/matrix


Having been at B&D for a long time (96-2008) I can tell you the system tools (the Matrix was only the latest version, the first series was back in the late 80's - with bakelite housings!) were just a marketing gimmick, but they sell well because most B&D products are bought as Holiday gifts (aside from kitchen and outdoor lawn tools) so they're rarely used to much extent. As you'd expect, every tool in the system is compromised in one way or another to better suit the connectability of one of the other tools.
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