LG wants you to buy Friends with its G5 smartphone

LG has unveiled its new G5 smartphone, its first handset to feature a modular design

A hostess demonstrates the modular design of the lG G5 smartphone at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Components can be added to increase the device's capabilities

LG has revealed its latest handset, which features an expansion slot for add-ons. Unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the LG G5’s base is modular and can be replaced with several different function-expanding accessories.

Modular smartphones have so far proven difficult products to crack for manufacturers

Two different modules, which LG are calling ‘Friends’, have been unveiled so far. The first is a camera grip that gives the smartphone a dedicated shutter button, zoom dial and extra battery life. The second is a Bang & Olufsen 32-bit converter and amplifier, improving the audio quality of the device. The amplifier can be clipped into the smartphone’s base or used on its own. Though only these two modules have been unveiled so far, the door has been left open for third-party manufacturers to design their own.

While swapping components has always been possible in personal computers, smartphones have so far remained closed devices. With a modular smartphone, if a single part such as a camera became obsolete or damaged it could be easily replaced. A fully modular smartphone would also have a longer lifespan and create less waste. Though the LG G5 is not yet at that point, it is a step in that direction.

Modular smartphones have so far proven difficult products to crack for manufacturers. Google’s Project Ara, a design featuring completely replaceable individual parts, has been delayed into 2016 after a planned 2015 trial launch. Other designs, such as the Xiaomi Magic Cube and the ZTE Eco-Mobius, have only been shown as prototypes.

LG also unveiled several other ‘Friends’ for the new handset, though these were more like accessories than modular parts. They included a 360-degree camera, a lightweight virtual reality headset and wireless headphones. The device has not yet been priced, but a release is expected in the coming months.