You might have missed that a few weeks back, designer Dave Hakkens received some press for Phonebloks
, an idea focusing on designing a modular mobile phone, where batteries, chipsets, displays, and other components could be swapped out at will to build a phone specifically tailored for what you needed it to do. While compelling, the idea was soundly mocked by many folks
who claimed it was a pipe dream that ignored basic concepts of sound electrical engineering design.
Fast forward to today, and Motorola has announced over at their blog
a modular phone product they're calling Ara.
Like Phonebloks, an Ara device would consist of an exoskeleton with swappable modules. According to Motorola a module "can be anything, from a new application processor to a new display or keyboard, an extra battery, a pulse oximeter—or something not yet thought of."
Motorola says they've been working on Ara for more than a year, and they've met with Hakkens recently to compare visions. Other than a photo of some early design prototypes (left) technical specifics for the project are pretty much completely nonexistent in Motorola's announcement.
"Project Ara is developing a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones," notes the company. "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."
Critics will still charge that a modular design will dramatically raise costs, increase device size, and raise durability issues. As such, it's a very real possibility Ara never actually comes to market. Still, the announcement has people thinking and talking about Motorola being an innovator again, and that's certainly Google's primary goal here.