Internet kingpins Google recently unveiled a new prototype for their modular smartphone, which will allow users to swap out components and essentially design their own phones. The phone will work in a similar manner to a desktop gaming PC, only it won't require any specialist knowledge to build and operate. In fact, it would appear Google has gone with an incredibly user friendly design that allows owners to simply slot components into the devices external shell as easily as they would a replacement battery or memory card in a conventional smartphone.
Project Ara will allow users to swap out components and essentially design their own phone
Components are held in place with magnets, and also include different designs and sizes, so you're not only changing the functionality of your phone, but its aesthetics as well. Even the screen, which takes up the vast majority of the phone's face, can be replaced, so if the screen is damaged the user doesn't have to buy a new phone or have it repaired. Aside from the primary, necessary components, modules that not every user will use such as a camera, a larger speaker, extra batteries and a heart-rate monitor, can also be added and subtracted at will, with other modules (such as a night-vision component) set to be released as the user base for the device grows and evolves.
Project Ara – Part of it
Gadi Amit, the head product designer for Project Ara, said that “Conceptually it's the first time a major electronic object will not only be designed but also manufactured, if you wish, by the end user.” He calls the phone a “Relaxed approach to technology,” which is “Not about fetishising electronics,” something that the smartphone community has been accused of doing liberally in recent years. He says the idea behind the device is simple: “If you want to do more you can do more, if you want to do less, you can.” He also said the phone has “An open architecture,” meaning its open to third party development, and that there are already “Quite a few third parties that are developing modules” for it. Another incredibly useful feature of the phone is the ability to switch out a dead battery with a fresh one whilst the phone remains on (currently for 30 seconds). Amit said “If you lose a battery you can replace it, without losing a call, or, for instance, you go to a party and take a few cameras in your pocket and swap them.”
“If you want to do more you can do more, if you want to do less, you can” Gadi Amit
Project Ara began life as “Phonebloks,” a project designed by Design Academy Eindhorne graduate Dave Hakkens. Having gained almost a million supporters through the crowd sourcing site, Thunderclap in October 2013, Hakkens then began collaborating with Motorola on the project. Although Google sold Motorola to Lenovo last year, they held on to the Project Ara team, who are now working under the company's Android division. The latest version of the phone is currently codenamed “Spiral 2,” and was presented at the Project Ara Developers Conference in Puerto Rico last week. Thus far, pricing and a release date have yet to be announced, but it will be pilot-tested in Puerto Rico later in the year with between 20 and 30 modules.