Modular phones: How to build a smartphone that’s perfect for you

Lynn Wright / 11 July 2016

Modular phones offer a tantalising glimpse of the future of smartphones, allowing you to snap parts together to create the ideal mobile phone for you.

Most modern smartphones look similar. Whether it’s an Apple iPhone, Samsung or LG Android or another smartphone brand, they all share a similar build and design.

Modular mobile phones aim to change that, letting you create your own smartphone with exactly the features and parts you need. 

Modular phones also promise to reduce electronic waste and repair bills as broken parts can be swapped out for new ones.

How does a modular phone work?

Individual components can be slotted into the main body of a modular phone, so you can customise it to suit your needs. Components are available across a range of mobile phone functions, with modules for digital cameras, GPS, additional storage and extra batteries. By adding modules, you can create your own smartphone – such as exchanging the camera with an extra battery for a longer life.

Central to this modular design is the phone operating system’s ability to recognise and use the new module. Adding a Bluetooth module would tell the software it can now use Bluetooth, and ensure it appears on the phone’s interface as an option.

What are the advantages of a modular phone?

Modular phones offer a range of advantages over regular smartphones, although some are less obvious:

Future proofing

As modules can be swapped, mobile phone manufacturers can release new modules as technology updates or becomes cheaper. Rather than buy a completely new mobile phone to get a better digital camera, a module phone lets you swap out the old camera module with a newer, improved version.

Lower repair bills

If your mobile phone camera breaks, you could face a costly repair bill or even have to buy a new phone. A modular phone makes swapping out the broken component cheaper and quicker. 

Reduce electronic waste

Mobile phones contain lots of toxic components that are hazardous for the environment, and the regular upgrade cycle of mobile phones mean many discarded mobile phones end up in landfill. By allowing mobile phones to be cheaply upgraded, there’s less need to throw away the entire phone, lowering waste in both manufacturing a new phone and recycling the old one. 

Have it your way

Modular phones let you customise the look, feel and shape of your phone so it’s comfortable to use, positioning buttons and controls where you want.

Where can I buy a modular phone?

Modular phones are in their infancy – and have recently just made the jump from idea to physical product. The only mainstream modular phone available is the LG G5, released in February 2016. It has limited modular features – you can slide out the battery from the base of the phone and swap it for a series of modules such as a dedicated camera grip that includes physical camera buttons such as a zoom wheel. Other modules will include audio speakers and a virtual reality module.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.