Google announces build-your-own-phone project Ara

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Motorola mobility, a Google owned company announced an interesting project and a partnership with Phonebloks to develop the company’s concept of allowing you and I to customize smart phone components and build our very own bespoke mobile. The idea is you purchase a basic phone structure and then add various modules when necessary. This means you can upgrade batteries, cameras or even faster processors when they become available. I like this idea, after all as an avid android user, I regularly flash custom ROMs to my devices and enjoy a varied user experience from an interface point of view throughout a 12 month period.

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Why not take the same concept, and apply it to hardware which before now was not possible. If Apple went for something like this, you would still be locked down from a software point of view. To me, the benefits of open source customisation, coupled with smart phone customisation is 100% win for the end-user. Project Ara as the project is known, could be the start of further disruption in the mobile market. Maybe ailing handset maker HTC needs to take note. Motorola has teamed up with Phonebloks apparently in a move to tap into interest that the company has generated from other developers and designers.

Writing in a blog post Motorola confirmed that it has been developing the project for more than 12 months.

Project Ara is developing a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular Smartphones. We want to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines. Our goal is to drive a more thoughtful, expressive, and open relationship between users, developers, and their phones. To give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it’s made of, how much it costs, and how long you’ll keep it. 

ara2blogpostIt is possible, that even if the concept does not take off, it could still be used as a platform for creating other devices such as microscopes. With the right infrastructure in place and more modules becoming widely available, then the end product would only be limited by our imaginations. Time will tell. Project Ara should appeal to many practical tech consumers who custom build their own desktop PCs using hard drives, CPUs and other custom-picked components. Plus with Google’s backing, motor ruler should be able to make this work.

If you purchase a handset which has a speedy processor based on price, and you need a higher resolution camera, but not so much storage, you can simply spend as you see fit rather than getting a new phone. Right now I am in the market for a new LCD digitizer screen for my HTC handset, but the cost makes it more practical for me to wait on a new upgrade contract in a few weeks time. If Google and Motorola have their way, users don’t have to shell out immediately for the latest and greatest thing but simply upgrade critical components that you need. Bring it on.