The major problem brought by Smartphones nowadays is that when they get a little old you need to replace them because there is no other way to upgrade their hardware. Google has thought about this problem and they want to solve it with the help of an initiative called Project Ara, whose main purpose is to develop an open hardware platform that would be used to design modular platforms.
You can think of Project Ara as being mainly a desktop computer for smartphones, since it’s made out of multiple components or modules that are seamlessly combined together. The best thing here is that there will be an exoskeleton, and you will be able to access all the components inside. You will be able to add a new display, camera or even replace the batter if you want.
Project Ara is a great initiative when it comes to reducing electronic waste and it will also help people from all over the world save money, especially those that buy a new phone each year.
Google intends to provide a starter kit on the market for the Project Ara enabled phones, and this will include Wi-Fi, a frame, display, batter and the CPU. The other modules can be added and customized according to the needs of each person, allowing all users to modify everything as they see fit.
A great benefit of Project Ara comes from the fact that smartphones can be created in a natural manner, by adding better camera or smartphones, but people in various fields of work can combine other items with the phone in order to convert them for their domain.
Photo: Example of the Zebra Spiral Prototype by Maurizio Pesce
For example, an Project Ara enabled phone might be suitable for integrating with medical devices, laser pointers, night vision sensors or even some game controlling buttons. As you can see, the modular concept is very customizable, and in our opinion this is what will lead to the platform’s success.
Everything in a modular smartphone will be able easy to swap even without shutting the device down, only the screen and the CPU will require a shutdown.
Since Project Ara is an open platform, you will be able to create the hardware and even 3D print it if you want, as there won’t be any licenses to worry about if you want to duplicates stuff.
From a software standpoint, it seems that Project Ara will require a modified version of the Android L operating system that Google is already working on and which should be available on the market sometime in the next few months.
Modules and the hardware itself will be available on the market should be available in 2015, although it’s unclear a certain date. Still, if you fancy the idea of having a smartphone with a modular approach, then you need to keep an eye on this as it is very promising to say the least.
One interesting developer seems to be Phonebloks who are already working on interesting concepts. Check out the video below and don’t forget to drop your thoughts in the comment section below.