As someone who is a pretty big fan of Android, I’ve been following Google’s Project Ara with some interest. For those of you who don’t know, Ara is essentially a real-life and functional version of the modular smartphone Kickstarter called Phonebloks that was pretty popular on tech sites and even made the rounds on Facebook in September of 2013.
The Phonebloks concept is pretty incredible from a design standpoint, but pretty impossible (at least today) from an engineering standpoint. Not only would modular blocks for almost every component like GPS, Bluetooth, Wifi, etc. make the phone quite large, but having users able to make choose from several different CPUs, RAM, and other components would make support and fragmentation an exponentially bigger issue.
Then Google and (then subsidiary) Motorola announced in October of 2013 that they had been independently already working on a modular smartphone since 2012, and they even demonstrated a (somewhat) working prototype at Google I/O 2014 – the prototype froze on the boot screen.
All that background is why this video from Google I/O this year is so neat:
Not only did the prototype boot up successfully, but the modules appear to be hot swappable. It certainly isn’t the most elegant looking phone, but the potential seems (at least to me) huge. Google already has plans for a small- and medium-sized frame (different frames will obviously have both a different screen size and a different number of module slots on the back), with a larger Samsung Note 3-sized frame available in the future. The frames obviously aren’t as attractive as the Phonebloks-style frames, but with the functionality there, the design can be refined over time.