You love your phone but does it lack just one or two extra features the new model has? Well instead of upgrading to a brand spanking new model, how great would it be to just upgrade individual components?
Pretty good idea yeah? Well that’s exactly what Motorola and Google want to create with ‘Project Ara’, the world’s first fully customisable smartphone.
The Google led project aims to build a smartphone that can be upgraded by the user at any time using a series of modules.
If you think of your Smartphone like a desktop computer the concept is a little more believable.
All of your individual components are attached to your motherboard in individual bricks or modules; like processor, ram, camera, micro sim etc…
If you wanted to upgrade your desktop ram, you’d just go out and buy more ram- Same concept for smartphone ram… theoretically. It’s kinda like a Lego phone, but with real components.
A huge problem with the phones we use now is waste. We throw away literally millions of devices which have become old, worn out or just out of fashion. Often the phones are actually fully-functional, it could just be one component causing the problem- A broken screen, faulty wiring or power cable.
A number of governments and recycling agencies do recover parts of phone to re-use however much of the phone is wasted. We’re all pretty guilty of throwing away a phone “on its last legs”, replacing it with a new shiny model out of the factory.
However, if you had a component-built phone, you wouldn’t need to throw the whole device away, just because of one broken wire or a chipped case. Just replace the faulty module and keep 90% of the working parts.
Cost effective and good for the environment.
One of the major issues Google encountered with the project was manufacturing components that are, able to work independently and are small enough. Most phones nowadays are built from the board up, with all the parts designed to fit snugly together, without removing sections.
For anyone who’s tried to take a smartphone apart (not recommended), removing just one component almost always causes catastrophic failure when you try to power on again. A trapped wire here or a seal out place usually.
For Ara to work, each component needs to be both independent and robust enough to stand a bit of clipping on and off.
One of the last, and more complex components Google had to shrink was the processor, the brain of the smartphone- pretty important as you can imagine.
A few weeks ago the company announced it had secured a ‘custom-built’ processor for the Ara project from the Chinese CPU maker Rockchip. With the new processor on board Google can now plough ahead with development knowing that had a market challenging processor. There was no point in releasing a new phone if the speed and processing power was useless.
Phone for a day
The beauty with a customisable mobile is that fact that you could change your phone structure daily. Heading out for a long day of calls? Add a bigger battery in place of the camera module, going on holiday add Micro SD slot to store your movie.
Release and Costs
Last month, Google the shipped out preliminary hardware kits to developers to test out the concept and components.
According to Google, the release date for the first consumer Project Ara smartphone will be in the first quarter of 2015.
Costs are little more up in the air, initial suggestion were that Ara will only cost $50. However this price is little misleading as you’ll only get the basics of the phone, essentially an exoskeleton. To make a market quality phone you’ll need to buy more components, driving the price higher.