The Next Smartphone: Who Wants a Modular Cell Phone?
Would you buy a smartphone composed of several modular and interchangeable components that slide and magnetically click into place based on your unique needs? Like if they break, or perhaps just need an upgrade? Well, a dinky little startup called Google seems to think so, and for quite a while now their Advanced Technology & Projects (ATAP) group has been developing an open, modular smartphone platform called Ara that runs on Android.
Here’s a live demo from almost exactly one year ago today at the Google I/O event. In fact, at the ATAP’s session during Google i/o later this morning, we may very well catch a glimpse of how real, or how far away this concept is from reality. Project Ara is just a portion of the ATAP group, which has undergone several changes in the last year, including restructuring and large shifts in management that may have either accelerated, or derailed the project. Either way, the stellar lineup for the talk, and the subject of swapping out your cracked cell phone screen or upgrading the camera module just like a battery? Pretty compelling.
Guess we’ll have to wait a few more hours to see for ourselves if we actually want a modular cell phone someday. Or as Steve Jobs would say… just didn’t know we already wanted one till we held it in our hands.
Till then, here’s a mind blowing Verge post showing some of the the crazy modular phones you can build on Project Ara.
Finally, here’s the “modular” piece from the original article by NPR that inspired our post today is here below, as well as a link to their full write-up. Hope you enjoy!
The Modular Approach
In 2013, Dutch designer Dave Hakkens launched a project that chased that very dream — of a cool, but everlasting phone — for environmental reasons.
“I 100 percent started this to reduce the amount of e-waste … so I’m definitely in the tree-hugger group,” Hakkens says. “And that’s still the main goal — try to have a phone that grows with you but doesn’t generate that much waste.”
His project, Phonebloks, was a concept of a modular phone — a device that’s built sort of like a 3-D puzzle, with each component like the screen, camera, battery and processor all easily detachable and replaceable on their own.
Since then, several phone-makers in China and Europe have laid plans to develop a modular phone. There’s a Finnish take on it called PuzzlePhone, and a Dutch one called Fairphone, which focuses on ethical manufacturing and use of conflict-free resources.
But the big market test of the idea could come later this year, when Google is slated to pilot its own attempt at a modular phone, called Project Ara.
Google Gives It A Go
Google promotes Ara as a smartphone that can be tailored to each user and a way to innovate hardware as fast as we’ve done with apps.
Ara was originally supposed to pilot in 2015, but has now been rescheduled for 2016. Google spokeswoman Victoria Cassady says there aren’t any further updates on the timing beyond what the project has shared on Twitter.
Be sure to read the full post by NPR’s All Tech Considered to catch their entire original story posted in April.