Is modular smartphone design the wave of the future? Google is banking that it will be, and with their new Project Ara are working hard to redefine the meaning of customisable smartphones. With Project Ara, Google wants to introduce a new kind of freedom to the mobile phone market. No longer will consumers be forced to choose between handsets based on which features are available which devices. Soon, consumers will be able to design their own smartphones, incorporating only those features they want in their own personalized handset. According to Google, it the future of designer smartphones.
Project Ara – In Brief
Google launched Project Ara in February of 2014, and while it’s still in the early stages they expect to unveil prototypes at the Mobile World Conference this year. Project Ara phones are said to be entirely customisable. The customer begins with a basic frame, which Google calls an ‘endoskeleton’, to which they can attach the components of their choice. To give you a better idea of the concept, imagine a Lego kit. In essence, the customer builds their own phone out of interchangeable components. They can choose what camera they prefer (or no camera at all), and where to put it. They can select the processor, RAM, and battery modules they want. Customers will even have a choice display screen. Because all of Project Ara’s components are interchangeable, customers can build a device that is unique to their needs, and their budgets. Components can be changed and upgraded at will, giving the consumer more control over the final end product.
The Modular Revolution
Modular smartphone design could be a major step forward in the mobile phone market, bringing a wide range of benefits to the consumer. First, a modular smartphone basically reinvents the budget handset. With consumers able to choose what components they need, or want, the price of a basic handset is wholly determined by the customer. If they want a bare bones smartphone, and don’t want to pay for any additional bells and whistles, they can design one to suit their needs and budget. Second, any upgrades can be done over time. Customers can add more RAM, a better camera, or an improved display as, and when, they see fit. There will be no need to start shopping for a brand new handset simply to get access to new improved components and features. And finally, for those people who think the design of smartphones and phablets may be getting a bit out of hand, the modular design concept will put the end user in charge of shape, size, and specific features.
Where Google Goes…
Where Google goes, others follow and the software giant isn’t the only firm working on modular smartphones. Finnish firm Circular Devices has actually been working on their own version of a customisable smartphone since 2013. Dubbed the Puzzlephone, the Finnish device is based around a core assembly of three parts – the Heart, the Brain, and the Spine. The Heart contains the battery and secondary electronics; the brain contains the processor and primary circuitry; and the Spine is host to the display, speakers, and buttons. Much like Project Ara, all of these components are interchangeable, and can be removed and replaced at will. While Circular Devices began their project earlier than Google, they are lagging a bit behind in development and don’t expect to have a prototype ready to unveil until late in the year.
Modular smartphone design may be in its early stages, but Project Ara and the Puzzlephone are likely to be signs of things to come. Today’s consumer wants more control over the products they buy, and that applies as much to technology as to anything else. Modular design is set to offer the smartphone market just that – control, and the freedom to create and customize a mobile device that suits the buyer’s needs and budget restrictions. The next smartphone revolution is on its way, and it is called Modular Design.