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Motorola Unveils Modular Phone Concept "Ara"
by Karl Bode 02:34PM Tuesday Oct 29 2013
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.

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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.

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xenophon

join:2007-09-17

Lego my Moto

Cool concept, will have to see how it works out in real world. I like that someone is at least trying it.

NY Tel
Premium
join:2004-04-09
Smithtown, NY
kudos:3

Re: Lego my Moto

Google is driving the bus on this one.....
Right into the ground. They will ruin Moto. You watch.

fuziwuzi
Not born yesterday
Premium
join:2005-07-01
Atlanta, GA

Re: Lego my Moto

Those newfangled motor carriages are scaring the horses, they'll never last!
--
Teabaggers: Destroying America is Priority #1

aaronwt
Premium
join:2004-11-07
Woodbridge, VA

I would rather just...

replace my old phone and get a new one. I wouldn't want to deal with modules. Plus you get all the newest components with a new phone.
xenophon

join:2007-09-17

Re: I would rather just...

If carrier subsidy goes completely away it may make more sense, maybe.

CRP

@hargray.net
said by aaronwt:

replace my old phone and get a new one. I wouldn't want to deal with modules. Plus you get all the newest components with a new phone.

Reminds me when all the gamers built their own computers so they could put in whatever piece they thought would make a difference for gaming. Over clocking and all that but those days are pretty much gone I'm sure about this in a phone.

I'm sure software conflicts would become a problem.

Simba7
I Void Warranties

join:2003-03-24
Billings, MT

Re: I would rather just...

I'd be more interested if you could upgrade the RAM and/or Flash memory in the device.
Ammler
Premium
join:2005-04-19
Pittsburgh, PA
I still build my own PCs, don't just buy the crap off the shelf. This would be neat, as I've always liked Moto phones. Still have a Barage flip that does everything I want.
jgNJ

join:2008-05-20
Hightstown, NJ

Really?

Mr. Potato Head for smart phones. I'm surprised this came from Motorola, this seems like an idea only Blackberry users would love.
TheKrell

join:2003-12-07
Fairfax, VA

Modular phone

Well, I like it! I bought my wife a cheap Galaxy SIII clone, and she is very happy with it except for the crappy camera. I would love simply to replace that one component, rather than pay through the nose for the genuine Samsung.
bklass
Premium
join:2012-02-06
Canada
kudos:2

Monopoly co-option

Given Google's (and by extension Motorola, as a subsidiary) propensity to use open source as a jumping-off point to create platforms that are increasingly closed off, it saddens me to see that Phonebloks has moved so quickly to align itself with Motorola.
percosan

join:2002-03-13
San Francisco, CA

re-hash of a previous #fail?

»en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modu

-p
HeadSpinning
MNSi Internet

join:2005-05-29
Windsor, ON
kudos:5

Re: re-hash of a previous #fail?

Apparently Moto bought their patents for $4.9M...
--
MNSi Internet - »www.mnsi.net
percosan

join:2002-03-13
San Francisco, CA

Re: re-hash of a previous #fail?

Cool. Thanks for the update.

anonome

@verizon.net

So, basically,

Motorola misses the '80s and '90s when we all built our own PCs with the precise components for price and performance for what we wanted to do--so we could save money and/or improve performance. Well, a smartphone is just another personal computer after all. Still, why bother? (Oh, right--hundreds and hundreds of dollars for any smartphone nowadays is a total rip-off.)

Thanks. I'll stick with my cheapo feature phone for as long as possible.

Rambo76098

join:2003-02-21
Columbus, OH
Reviews:
·WOW Internet and..

Market?

Wouldn't this be aimed more at the carrier or MVNO market? MVNOs especially would be the ones to benefit from being able to throw together a phone that meets their specs with minimal R&D expense.

Like the idea and interested to see where it goes, but I see small carriers and MVNOs being the group that has the most potential. Selling this to consumers seems unlikely.
Secyurityet
Premium
join:2012-01-07
untied state

The whole kit 'n kaboodle

So what happens if you want ALL the modules?

Does it come with a little red Radio Flyer wagon to carry it in?

rwg

@rrd.com

modules

Will there be a module to swap out Android for Linux?