Motorola's Project Ara could very well be the future of smartphones

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: October 29, 2013

It wasn't too terribly long ago where I first made mention of the concept of Phonebloks, a new smartphone concept that let people customize their phones through interchangeable modules. Even from the beginning, I really liked the idea behind Phonebloks. It's turning the dream of being able to make your own smartphone into a reality. When I initially mentioned Phonebloks, I assumed that, like many other projects, it was a far off dream. As it turns out, Motorola has been working for about a year on what they call Project Ara, which teams up with Phonebloks to make this a very real thing. 

I am mostly pleased to learn that this is even attainable. When the video for Phonebloks first became popular, there was plenty of debate on whether the idea was even attainable or not. There seemed to be solid arguments from both sides on why it would or wouldn't work at the present time. Like most "ideas" that spark from this industry, although I supported the idea it probably wasn't something to get super hyped up over. I figured it would be a long time before we heard another word uttered about it. But nearly two months later, here we have proof that a major manufacturer is taking this idea seriously and gives me hope that we'll be seeing Project Ara completed a lot sooner than I could have ever hoped it to be.

The idea behind the project is simple: sometimes our phones don't work, but the case is not always that the entire phone won't work. Often it will just be one component. The SD card slot, the camera, the screen, etc. It could just be one or two things, but instead of replacing just one or two of those things that go caput, we replace the entire device. It's just easier this way. Not a whole lot of people want to spend the time dealing with the motherboard and the intricate wiring that goes along with it in order to replace certain components, if it's even possible. In today's world, it's just faster and more convenient to completely replace an entire device. But what happens to the rest of it? Sometimes the phone gets recycled, but other times it just ends up taking up space somewhere in a landfill, where it doesn't necessarily need to be. 

So instead of making one smartphone all put together collectively, Project Ara and Phonebloks try to make it easier for replacement, repair and recycling certain components of the phone by making the most important components available in modules. If each feature of a phone is broken up into a separate compartment, it would be a lot easier to take care of the one individual module that might be the problem. This could mean whether you're wanting to upgrade a module, or just replace it or get it repaired, this method just makes it that much easier to replace or fix only the parts that need it. 

This concept has been a dream of mine for quite some time. Simply put, there's a good chance you're never going to come across that one smartphone that has all of the things that you want in it. It might not have the greatest camera, or if it does have the greatest camera, maybe it doesn't have the right amount of storage you want to have in a phone. Maybe it has everything you want except for good battery life, or maybe the processor is a little slower than you would have liked. Things will probably last more long term once you get to pick the individual components yourself, and the fact that these modules are not only customizable by you initially, but also would be interchangeable throughout its lifetime really puts things into perspective on how far we are coming along when it comes to smartphones and how we see them.

Do I think they will completely take over the market? Probably not, at least not at first. There's still going to be the people who don't even want to mess with it. It's kind of like how I felt about iOS coming from Android - I liked it more because I didn't have to mess with it. Sometimes just having everything laid out for you isn't so bad. But then again, I think there is the very real possibility that this could change the way smartphones are made. I don't expect everything to change overnight, but over time it might just become the norm. Not only is it nice to be able to pick your parts, but it's also allegedly environmentally friendly. That's something that I can definitely get behind. Either way, I'm positively stoked about the fact that this idea, this project, is being taken seriously by at least one major company. Hopefully this will create more awareness and support of the project.

Readers, what are your thoughts regarding Motorola's Project Ara and Phonebloks? Are you excited to see this idea come to life, or would you rather stick to what we have now? Have you already found your perfect smartphone? Let us know your thoughts!

Images via Mashable, AnandTech