Is the Smartphone World Ready For Attachable Camera Lenses?
As smartphone camera sensors and housing continue to balloon in size, perhaps it is time to revisit an old idea for the sake of photography and ergonomics
Have you ever been at a restaurant with your phone sitting face up at a table? If your answer to that question is yes, then in recent years you have encountered the dreaded phone wobble when checking your phone notifications. Phone camera technology has come a long way in the last half-decade but this has come at a cost: massive camera sensors and housings. And this trend isn’t changing any time soon. The newest iPhone has adopted a larger sensor and Chinese OEMs have been experimenting with massive 1-inch sensors this year.
And while the improved image and video quality is a welcome addition, it has come at a massive ergonomic cost. Because of how much these sensors protrude from the body of the phone they have created a weight imbalance, and phones have become top-heavy. These lenses have also become more prone to crack since they are much more exposed. Some OEMs have tried to solve this with design. Google adopted a horizontal camera bar on the Pixel 6 and 7 for example. But perhaps the true solution lies in an idea that has been dead for a few years: the modular phone.
Revisiting the Past
Back in 2015, there was a new idea picking up steam in the world of phone design. Companies were exploring the idea of modularity, of a phone with attachments and replaceable parts. Google ventured into the ambitious Project Ara that broke the phone down into replaceable plug-and-play elements. LG introduced the Friends ecosystem with the LG G5 that added enhanced features through a removable bottom chin. Motorola took to the back of the phone with its Mod ecosystem which allowed a variety of accessories to be attached to the back of the phone using a magnet system. It seemed that the future was modular… until it wasn’t.
Project Ara never got off the ground, adding to the ever-growing graveyard of abandoned Google projects. The G5 struggled to shed the negative boot loop scandal from its predecessor…