Google’s Project Ara has been well underway for quite a while at this point. What started out as a kickstarter idea under the name “Phonebloks”, a concept for a modular smartphone, quickly turned into a real, full-fledged project under Google’s wing. Although there’s no way to be certain at this point whether Project Ara (or modular smartphones in general) will be a success or a flop, it’s hard not to get excited about the idea that we will finally be able to pick and choose which parts of a smartphone are important to us personally.
For those unfamiliar with Project Ara and modular smartphones, the concept is fairly simple. Instead of having this pre-constructed phone that’s completely set in its ways, you have the base of the phone (the exoskeleton) and then compartments to place the modules themselves in. The modules all represent different parts of the smartphone like the camera, processor, RAM, storage, cellular network, and more, all of which can be switched out whenever you’re ready for a change. Project Ara is set to release sometime in 2015, most likely sometime in the fourth quarter.
So why is this such a great idea? It’s actually great for several reasons. Whether you’re interested in a less expensive smartphone, the best of the best, or something in between, Project Ara can allow you to do that. Maybe you want to start out small and work your way up; you can switch out individual modules gradually to your liking. Or maybe your camera stops working for whatever reason. Instead of having to switch out your entire phone, you just get a replacement module and switch it out – easy as that.
But aside from the obvious features that Ara brings to the table, I’m noticing that other companies are starting to follow suit with Ara. Puzzlephone, for example, is another modular smartphone, albeit this modular design is a little simpler with only 3 modules as opposed to Ara’s 8. Then you have Fairphone, which allows you to swap out components. Even if Fairphone isn’t a “modular” smartphone quite like Ara or Puzzlephone, it still focuses on a design that allows users to easily make their own reparations if needed. Oftentimes if you break a smartphone now, you’ll be hard pressed finding a solution without having to go to a specialist or purchasing unofficial kits that may or may not work in the end.
It’s a small start, but I have the feeling that modular smartphones have the potential to become something great in the smartphone industry. It might also be a flop, but I strongly feel that the modular design – particularly in the case of Ara and Puzzlephone – are a simple enough concept for a good number of people to get on board with. Even if it’s not an entire shift in the industry (which I don’t expect it to be; I think this will be popular, but not all-encompassing) I’m excited about all of the new ideas that modular smartphones are already sparking within the industry.