Story 2014-03-02 3F1 Google's Modular Cellphone

Google's Modular Cellphone

in mobile on (#3F1)
Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group has announced a series of three developer events for Project Ara, which hopes to create a modular smartphone. Google hopes to have a working prototype ready within weeks, with a commercial release in the first quarter of 2015.
Motorola first unveiled the Project Ara initiative in October 2013 and Google is keen to push ahead with the project, despite selling off Motorola to Lenovo last month.
This is possible because Google decided to keep the ATAP group under its Android umbrella when it sold Motorola.
The design for Project Ara is based on the concept of Phonebloks, created by Dutch designer Dave Hakkens. It consists of a structural frame called an "endoskeleton" that holds various modules in place. The modules can be anything ranging from a new display, keyboard, an extra battery or something not yet thought of.
Endoskeletons will come in three sizes and cost approximately $50.
Reply 5 comments

Open architecture (Score: 3, Insightful)

by on 2014-03-03 19:05 (#95)

If the aim of this is to do for phones what IBM did for the PC back in the eighties (i.e. provide a framework which anyone can build components against), then it's probably a good thing. Is there some catch which I'm missing though? It seems that everyone in the phone industry wants to keep everything as proprietary and locked-down as possible, and this seems to be moving in the other direction...

Re: Open architecture (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-03-04 10:50 (#99)

Sounds interesting to me - I'll be happy for anything other than the Hershey Bar form factor, and if modularity gets us more options, that's good. Sometimes I'm happy with my touch keyboard and sometimes I like the physical keyboard. Perhaps this approach would allow me both. Likewise, I'd be happy to go without a camera.

In fact, if I'm looking for a phone for my daughter, I'd be willing to pay extra for a phone without a camera. Let some other guy's daughter sext herself all over Web 2.0. Those things are a menace.

Re: Open architecture (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2014-03-04 15:39 (#9B)

"It seems that everyone in the phone industry wants to keep everything as proprietary and locked-down as possible"

I think that's the reason this won't go very far, not in the US anyway. Phone vendors want to keep the idea of phone + phone plan together. They want the upgrade to be an incentive to stick with contracts, so I'd think the last thing they'd want is a modular phone that allows a person to swap out the radio module for $30 and go with another vendor.

Personally I'd like to see this happen. I was shopping around for a SMALL Android Phone and hardly any qualified for what I wanted. The Sony Xperia looked like a well rounded phone in the profile I wanted, but each model missed a different key feature I wanted - really, it's like they read my mind and omitted a different thing on each phone model to piss off me specifically. If I could have taken the features I wanted and glued them together, I would have bought one.

PhoneBloks are impractical rubbish (Score: 2, Informative)

by on 2014-03-04 17:45 (#9D)

All the different devices that might be embedded in the various components will have different buses, frequencies, voltage requirements, current-draw, etc. You can't even force compatbility as there's no freaking way you'd want to add an expensive bridge to a 1c ambient light sensor, for example.

However, if you want pluggable-to-a-limited-extent hardware, there's already Jolla.

Settings, what settings? (Score: -1, Offtopic)

by on 2014-03-06 13:16 (#9S)

Well, subject line says it all - I followed the settings link, and there were no settings to edit.