Just knowing that Project Ara is well underway makes me even more excited about itAnna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
It seems that a lot of things we look forward to in this industry are widely talked about, but often times never actually surface. How long have we been talking about graphene and what all it can do for battery life, screens and radio frequencies, yet we have yet to see an actual finished product make real use of it? Or what about massively increased internal memory allotments, made to compare with the likes of full-sized PCs? They're interesting to talk about, and I imagine one day they'll come to fruition, but for right now they're nothing more than concepts. Fortunately, there is one concept that is geared to be more than just a mere dream here in just a month and a half or so, and that's Motorola and Google's Project Ara.
Project Ara first came in the form of Phonebloks, a type of smartphone design that focused on a modular design rather than one slab of technology already put together for you. With the modular design, people would be able to essentially build their own smartphone. That is, the modules could be replaced as wanted/needed. Instead of having to completely throw out an entire phone when one component stopped working, you would simply replace one module. Not only is this more cost-effective for the user, but it also helps elimiate an issue on a much larger scale, and that's eliminating eWaste.
Phonebloks, however, was a small start-up company that might not have gotten very far if it hadn't been for Motorola stepping in and offering a helping hand with the idea. Fortunately, they did, and with Google as a back-up company it seemed that Phonebloks, later named Project Ara, would at least have a fighting chance of success if it was to happen. As it turns out, it's probably going to happen a lot sooner than I had ever anticipated, which comes as a most pleasant surprise to me.
It's hard to tell without an actual product in front of our faces whether a Project Ara smartphone would be of any interest to us. After all, it's a foreign concept that we're not used to, and if smartwatches and smart glasses are any indication of how we handle changes, just because it's "new" doesn't make it a winner of a product - at least from the get-go. While the premise of Project Ara is naturally supposed to be a step in the right direction, initially the devices will probably run into some unforseen snags that might make it a difficult product for people to get on board with. That being said, it's not like we haven't already gone through similar trials and tribulations in this industry - remember when Android was nothing more than a failed iOS attempt? Obviously today is a different story. You can also see the change coming with smart watches and glasses - not many people have them, but the number is slowly growing.
The sooner the product comes out, the faster manufacturers and developers can get on board with perfecting the product. It was a product that I figured wouldn't be much more than a rumor for quite some time, so the fact that they're holding their first conference this April (15-16) was a pleasant surprise for me to say the least.
Another great aspect about about Project Ara is that it's not some big secret project, it's a project that they're openly requesting for help with. Project Ara is openly requesting help from both developers and non-developers alike, so even the most non-tech-savvy of consumers could help with the development of this intriguing new product via "Missions" that you can conduct if you sign up for their Ara Scout Program. If you've ever been interested in getting involved with the mobile industry directly, this looks like the perfect opportunity to provide some solid feedback and be directly involved with a team who is developing what just might be the future of smartphones. Who knows? Perhaps getting directly involved with this type of work might inspire you to become a developer yourself.
All in all, the announcement for the developer conference (which you can view for free online if you wish via livestream after registration) really has me jazzed up about the future of Project Ara. This is definitely one product of change that I can get behind, and will be following very closely with its development over the next several months.
Readers, what are your thoughts about this news regarding Project Ara? Do you think you'll be helping with the development of the project? Let us know your thoughts about it in the comments below!
Images via Project Ara