LG's gambit to open G5 expansion slot doesn't guarantee developers will show up

Dan Kobialka, FierceDeveloperLG Electronics is now providing developers with a software development kit (SDK) and hardware development kit (HDK) to help them design and deploy apps for its G5 modular smartphone.

In addition, LG announced it will soon launch its Modular Friends online marketplace to help developers sell their compatible products and content directly to consumers. 

So what does the news mean for developers? In the long run, it may not be as meaningful as it sounds, despite the fact that LG appears to setting the bar extremely high for G5 development.

Dr. Ramchan Woo, LG's vice president of smartphone product planning, said in a company statement about the releases that "The potential of the industry changing LG G5 and the concept of Friends are limitless. ... We believe that by giving developers the same tools that inspired us from LG G5's inception, we're going to see innovations ranging from toys to medical tools to things we haven't even thought of ourselves."

Clearly, LG has lofty expectations for the G5, but there are no guarantees that developers will be drawn to the device. To better understand why this may be the case, just consider how LG's Friends marketplace operates. 

Friends requires developers to work with LG to create apps, according to LG. Plus, if developers submit an idea that ultimately results in a successful app, they are only entitled to what LG calls "a fair profit" as part of a signed agreement.

As Android Authority points out, "It's understandable why LG is doing this, but it's no way to start a modular ecosystem." 

Let's not forget about the G5's modular design, either.

The modular design has been a source of controversy thus far, as it features a "magic slot" located in the bottom part of the device and doubles as an accessory port. But as The Verge notes, "LG won't tell us if the Friends that slot directly into the bottom of the G5 will be compatible with its future phones."

In addition, even though the G5's design is certainly innovative, there has been no indication thus far that consumers are jumping at the opportunity to purchase this device.

International Business Times reports LG could ship more than 10 million G5 units this year. Comparatively, Samsung shipped 82 million units in the first quarter of 2016. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), meanwhile, shipped 42 million iPhones during the quarter.

LG has a long way to go if it hopes to build trust among developers. And even though the company appears to be doubling down on its efforts to promote G5 development, it may be some time before developers start to embrace the G5 and its modular design. -- Dan