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October 29th 2013 10:57 am

Never have your smartphone go out of date thanks to Motorola's Project Ara

A few weeks ago a video surfaced on YouTube for a project called Phonebloks (https:­/­/www.youtube.com­/watch­?v­=oDAw7vW7H0c). If you haven't watched it yet the TL;DW is that the creator envisions the ability to swap out components like you can with a PC. Well Motorola also thought this was a cool idea and have embarked on Project Ara (http://motorola-blog.blogspot.com/2013/10/goodbye... with the original creator of the Phonebloks concept.

Motorola envisions you being able to swap out the components (modules) of your phone. They're suggesting the modules that could move forward are the phone's CPU, screen, sensors, camera, and virtually anything else in the phone.

It's certainly an interesting idea and could better serve as a way to allow people to hold onto their phones longer. The flip side is that this kind of process has always been available for PCs and people still don't take advantage of it at a normal consumer level (think your aunt or uncle walking into Best Buy and getting a new PC versus buying some more memory). Also consider that there is no estimated cost or even baseline specs provided from Motorola who claims to have been working on this for year.

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I love the idea, but in execution I don't know how well this would work.
  1. How durable would this be? Would the pieces fly out if you drop it? Are they going to design a casing that will keep everything in there? Do you need to buy a case? How easy would it be to put back together in a hurry if you drop it and stuff flies out?
  2. How bulky would this be? The trend has been toward smaller, lighter phones... and other gadgets. As you've pointed out, repairability has gone out the window for laptops because people prefer the lighter, smaller form factor that comes from soldering things together/making them one piece: gdgt.com­/discuss­/does­-a­-product­-s­-repair­-score­-rea...
  3. How does this affect development? I guess it's no different from developing for PCs, which have specs that are all over the place, but we'd be asking consumers who don't give a flying fig about specs usually to suddenly start wondering if their processor is fast enough, whether they have the right screen or camera to support an app. The current market already confuses people... and by people, I mean normal consumers like my parents, and not you and I and anyone else reading this website...
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Great idea, fantastic way to stick out from the crowd. This will help them sell phones in the short term as a way to distinguish Motorola from LG, HTC and Sony.

Will this modular platform actually be executed properly and be popular for the next 5 years? Hell no. The highly competitive market of smartphones is constantly re-inventing itself and not even Apple's 30 pin connector could weather the storm of constant innovation as a stable pillar.

Great idea to make them money? Yes, of course.
Feasible? More like laughable.
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This is going to be interesting.

I wonder if this will ever make it to market, but if it does, and if it takes off, then there would be a few neat by-products.

It would mess up the carrier subsidy model as people may not get a "new phone" every 2 years because they could constantly upgrade. Now Motorola may make these things proprietary, but if they align with Google's philosophy of keeping android open, we may see the development of a standard for the components such that all manufacturers can get their piece of the pie.

Now imagine building a phone with a Nokia or Sony camera, a screen from HTC, Battery from the Motorola Maxx line. That would be a very interesting device.

/rant about the future that would never happen.
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Well the fact the every component in a PC is hidden in a case that nobody opens is probably the main reason why people never took advantage to upgrade their hardware unless a computer guy told them too.

Moto and Phonebloks are doing something that PC's have had for years but the exception is, you can see these components on the back of your phone. It is visible for everyone to see. This makes me believe that more people will want to change and customize their phone to whatever they like. However, Personally, I love the simple back cover of a phone. I don't want it to look all complicated. If Motorola can make a back cover to hide up the back side of the phone (like the blue on the woman is hold on the picture above) that would be great and would imitate the PC method of hiding components exactly.
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