All of us have a phone with many amazing and attractive features along with some compromises we make for it to stay light on our pocket. Manufacturers generally keep one feature short in all devices to save it for the next generation device that they could claim to sell as an improvement. For instance, the camera in your new phone is amazing, but the slower clock speed leaves you wishing you could change that, and make the phone your own. This task would need absolute personalization and control over your device. That is what Google has visualized and is nearly done with the production. Yes, we are talking about personalized smartphones. By 2017, we can get our hands on the Moto Project ARA smartphone and hence, excessive control over what we want in our pocket computer. Assembling computers has always been fun for us, let us try and explore how assembling a smartphone like it, made of lego pieces, works out.
How does it look and work?
You are required to purchase an exoskeleton i.e. a frame onto which your Lego like pieces or modules, as we would call it, would be mounted. You can change your modules as per your need. The problem when a new phone gets launched with a better camera (or something) at an almost similar price range making your current choice a stupid decision, SOLVED. Just put in a new camera module and you are good to go.
The idea started off as a concept which would allow users to change ANY part of their device has now turned into something more realistic. Unfortunately, the tech nerds among you, won’t be able to change any of the core internals. Which means the processor, RAM, antennas or storage are not swappable. The “exoskeleton” will already have a built-in battery, antenna, processor, radios, a non-removable display as well as memory components. The frame itself would be built with long-lasting connectors and latches ensuring the security of the modules. In fact, according to Google, the connectors are capable of lasting 10,000 swap-out/in cycles without any issue.
Modules are the lego-like hardware pieces that make this happen
Although the core internals won’t be interchangeable, you’ll still be able to choose between different camera modules, expandable storage, add on multiple loudspeakers and even a more powerful battery.
The “What’s next” promo video, shows off the ability to customize the device to make it more suitable for musicians by swapping in a more powerful microphone, and, multiple loudspeakers. It also showcases the option to add in modules designed specifically for health and fitness tracking. This smartphone is definitely going to be a looker. HERE’S THE VIDEO:
Some more trivial options include a monochromatic secondary display for showing useful info (like the weather), a kickstand and different colour modules made from different materials purely to make it feel different. Possibly the most important feature of the modules is that these modules are “hot-swappable”, which means they’ll be swappable without having to reboot the phone. There would be no need to hunt for drivers to download to make a new module work. It’s truly plug-and-play. Impressing us even more is auto-eject feature The modules can be ejected with a simple voice command. “OK Google, eject the loudspeaker”.
THE SOFTWARE THAT MAKES IT HAPPEN
Talking about the software, the ATAP team has developed Greybus that would support instantaneous module connections, would be power-efficient and with data-speeds soaring high at 11.9Gbps. That basically means that any info you transfer between the phone’s brain and a module would be very quick, giving you a responsive and fluid experience.
The latest Android OS will be slightly modified to make it suitable for the Ara. Being a Google project, you can expect it to resemble pure, vanilla Android but with a few under-the-hood tweaks to optimise it for the hardware. Paul Eremenko, the project’s team leader, has promised the Android team is working to make sure the Ara phone is a priority and gets the latest updates.
Project Ara was originally rooted in Motorola, when it was a Google owned company, under the Motorola Advanced Technology and Projects group. Although Motorola was sold to Lenovo in 2014, Google was able to keep this group under its Google Advanced Technology and Projects Group (ATAP).
Project Ara has been inspired by the Phonebloks initiative, a project that aims to make “a phone worth keeping”. According to The Project Ara team, it will partner in some aspects with Phonebloks to make Project Ara a success, but it doesn’t sound like a full-on partnership is coming soon. Actually, what Phonebloks thought of is EXACTLY the idea of Project ARA. Here you go with their first video showcasing it.
Although this video showcases a pretty unrealistic idea, Motorola made it more achievable by fixing some components. Nonetheless it still seems pretty future proof.
WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
- BULKY SIZE.This concept will be bulkier than the other phones in the market.
- MANUFACTURING COSTS. What makes a phone cheap and save manufacturing cost is compact size of phone and number of units produced. Phonebloks or modules on the other hand would be made by individual companies, and thus the costs will be high unless there is a high demand for the parts.
- AVERAGE LIFE OF THE MODULES.The average life of electronic components is generally shorter, so you may end up changing all or most of your parts in the long run, which would be equivalent to buying a new smartphone and bashing the idea of ARA altogether.
Price cannot be predicted yet but some big names in the module development (including Samsung, Sony Pictures, E-Ink, Toshiba and Panasonic), Project ARA could be a huge success and an absolute game changer. MOTO and Google, a company which brought the idea of cellular phones and a company that is actually known for shaping technology as we know it today, come together, well, explosions expected. The smartphone would be available to us somewhere in 2017 and the module development kit would be available this fall. Making this a SOON-TO-COME future. With excitement building up and new prototypes emerging with in-depth reviews on YouTube, the expectations are quite high.
What are your thoughts about this breakthrough idea? Are you excited? Vent it all out in the comments below.