In less than a week we will be turning our calendars to another year, and with a new year comes the promise of new and exciting technology. One of the most probable new pieces of technology, at least in the mobile industry, we are hoping to see is the introduction of the modular smartphone. In particular, we’ve got our sights set on Google’s Project Ara.
If you haven’t heard of Project Ara yet, it’s a good time to catch up on articles regarding the concept. Project Ara is a smartphone, but put together by individual modules chosen by the user. It will be the closest we have ever gotten to having a truly customizable smartphone of our own, where we will supposedly be able to choose the camera, the processor, the amount of RAM, internal storage, and more. All of these things are generally given to us in a preset amount at this point. What’s even better is that you can change out these modules at any point in time, so when you “upgrade” your phone you don’t necessarily have to do the whole shebang - you’ll be able to upgrade bits and pieces at a time, if that’s how you want to do it.
Of course, Project Ara is just a concept to us right now. We’ve seen a couple of previews here and there, but nothing too solid. In this industry we are used to having our hopes built up to an insanely high level with hype after hype, only to be completely let down with the actual release. To say that the potential for a let down isn’t also there with Project Ara would be kind of a silly thing to say. However, despite the risks of Project Ara not being completely awesome like we all hope it will be, I’m still pretty darn excited to see what it will actually be like at release.
I’m not expecting anything spectacular. We’ve gotten accustomed to smartphones working much better these days now that we’re past those early years, so many might assume that Project Ara, as an extension of the smartphone family, should also live up to the same expectations we have for other smartphones. But I have pretty low expectations for Ara’s early days. I expect there to be bugs and issues galore. Despite that, I’m still excited for Ara to make its debut, because while my hopes for Ara’s initial release are quite low, my hopes for the future of Ara are quite high.
The entire concept of a modular design seems intriguing to me. I know that at first it probably won’t take the market by storm, because as intriguing as it sounds it also sounds straight up complicated. Then again, you also have to remember that a “Project Ara competitor” is also apparently in the works - remember PuzzlePhone? If not, it’s basically using the same concept as Project Ara is, except less complicated. Ara plans to make just about every aspect of a smartphone into an interchangeable module, whereas PuzzlePhone gives you just three modules to change in and out. If PuzzlePhone were to work out, it could work as a stepping stone for people to get used to the more complicated design of Ara.
It feels like people are ready for a drastic change in the industry, and I think truly customizable smartphones might be the key. Take Moto Maker for example: although all you can change in Moto Maker is the design of the Moto X, it’s still a fairly popular tool. People like being able to make decisions for themselves. Perhaps it’s making a bold statement to think that people will be equally as thrilled to essentially build their own smartphone, but I think given enough time it could become the norm. I imagine ten years ago nobody thought that smartphones would be as popular as they are (let’s face it, they’re complicated little buggers) but here we are, with people from all generations using them.
Overall, I’m still pretty stoked about Ara, despite my low expectations of its initial release. I’m excited to see how the project manages to grow over time, and also quite interested in using a Project Ara phone of my own someday soon.