EVER thought it might be easier to have a phone whose features you could just pull apart?
Instead of buying a brand new phone, Project Ara‘s vision is to improve individual features by buying a better camera or a battery with a longer battery life to attach to your existing phone. Constantly upgrading.
The concept of the modular smartphone has been around for a while now, but it was the preserve of crackpot independent developers like Dave Hakkens.
When a video promoting his Phonebloks concept went viral last year, the general response was that it was a good idea that would never take off. That is, until now.
Recently, Google took a bold step by launching a new website dedicated to Project Ara, a modular smartphone concept which is very similar to Phonebloks.
They have detailed their plans to hold three Ara Developers’ Conferences this year, the first of which will take place in mid-April.
The website contains a clear and daring mission statement for the project: a phone that could be used as a ‘creative canvas to tell your own story’.
The idea behind modular smartphones is simple. Rather than being made of a single part like current smartphones are, it’s made up of several different ‘modules’, each of which has a different purpose: one is the camera, another is the battery, and so on.
All of the modules can be removed, so it’s completely customisable – if you want a bigger battery, a better camera, more storage space or pretty much anything else, you just take out the old module and put a new one in.
People have the ability to customise their computers by installing a better graphics card or more RAM, and now that phones are essentially very small computers it seems only fair that similar personalisation should be possible with them, too.
The limitless configurations are not the only advantage: it’s also much less wasteful than current methods.
Rather than throwing away an entire device once it becomes damaged or obsolete, you can simply get rid of the broken or outdated components without wasting the rest of the device.
It makes a lot of sense – normally, when a device breaks, it is only a single component which is at fault. It doesn’t really make sense to discard a whole device because one part of it packed in, especially when the amount of electronic waste is increasing every year.
Google’s intention is clear: technology by the people, for the people. However, it’s difficult to see how much we should buy into their rhetoric.
The idea is a long way from being finalised, and it’s not clear whether it will end up as the next big step in smartphone technology or nothing more than a gimmick.
Still, this is undoubtedly one of the most exciting developments in mobile technology since the invention of the smartphone.