I Had a Modular Phone 16 Years Ago

Handspring Visor Color with Phone Module

No, this isn’t LG’s 2016 G5, it’s Handspring’s 2000 Color Visor with an attached mobile phone module—essentially, a VisorPhone. It was technically my first-ever smartphone (PDA phones qualified as smartphones back then) and has long since been my avatar on Howard Forums.

What does any of this have to do with LG’s new flagship? Well, the more I read about the promise of the modular G5 the more I recall the Achilles’ heel of my old Handspring Visor.

Since you probably came here to read about the G5 here’s a rundown of the notable specs, via Android Central:

  • Android 6.0.1
  • Snapdragon 820
  • 5.3 inch QHD IPS display @ 554 dpi
  • 16 MP & 8MP wide-angle (135 degrees) rear cameras
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 32 GB onboard storage, supports up to 2 TB microSD
  • 2,800 mAh removable battery
  • Available in Silver, Titan, Gold & Pink

And here’s the cheeky launch video—the add-on modules are detailed in the first half:

Launch add-ons include a camera controller with extended battery and a 32-bit audio amp from Bang & Olufsen, with the promise of more modules to come. Here’s what’s wrong with that promise:

My old Handspring Visor also had a variety of available modules, including the GSM phone unit and an add-on camera that could capture images in colour at 320 x 240 pixels—a pretty big deal in the year 2000.

But what if you wanted to use the phone radio and the camera at the same time? A ridiculous question to ask at the turn of the century but today it’s a basic and very necessary function for any mobile device. What if, for example, that B&O module for the G5 added 32-bit audio recording as a feature, and someone wanted to capture high fidelity audio and use physical camera controls at the same time?

LG is no doubt expecting two streams of revenue from their new G5—sales from the phones and from the add-on modules as well. The only thing that would ruin that party is someone else building a phone with all that stuff on board from the get-go. Wouldn’t that be the phone you’d rather have?

Sources: My Phone Book (1) (2), Android Central (1) (2) (3), Digital Camera Resource