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Motorola announces Project Ara, its open hardware platform

Posted: , by Alan F.

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Motorola announces Project Ara, its open hardware platform
Looking to do to hardware what Android has done with software, Motorola on Tuesday morning has announced Project Ara. The idea is to allow third parties to offer modular parts of a smartphone that would lower the barriers to entry for competition, increase the pace of innovation and compress development time. Going well beyond the customization of the Motorola Moto X, Project Ara would allow smartphone buyers to truly decide what they want their smartphone to do, what it looks like and how much it will cost.

In the next few months, the wholly owned Google subsidiary will release an MDK (Module Developer’s Kit) and third party developers will be begin creating the modules. The design consists of an endoskeleton (endo) and modules. The endo is a frame on which the modules are attached to. The latter, as Motorola points out, could be "a new application processor to a new display or keyboard, an extra battery, a pulse oximeter--or something not yet thought of!"

Motorola has been working on this project for a year and is asking for your help. You can sign up to be an Ara Scout and get emailed each month with the opportunity to share your ideas on the project, using an app available for iOS and Android phones. Motorola also met with Dave Hakkens, the creator of Phonebloks, who has a similar idea for a modular phone. We told you about Phonebloks last month.

This all sounds like a very interesting idea that could very well change the way we buy a smartphone. You will be able to build your own individual handset picking the camera you want along with the display and all powered with the CPU that you want running your phone. And think about how much easier repairs would be. Snap out the defective part, snap in the new one and you're good to go.

Motorola has shared some pictures with us that show off some of the modular designs already made in tests. You can see these truly customized models by clicking on the slideshow below. 









source: Motorola

51 Comments
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posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:30 22

1. draconic1991 (Posts: 100; Member since: 27 Apr 2012)


It would be so cool if you could upgrade your phone like a pc.....just buy a new part to make your phone equal to the flagships....no more limitations of not being able to upgrade your phone to a new software version...

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:48 5

14. pokharkarsaga (Posts: 346; Member since: 23 Feb 2012)


Now even mobile hardware will become customizable while running customizable os.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:56 1

18. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5282; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


Great concept (plug-n-play modules); but the whole module thing would seem to add its own overhead. For example, if you were to be able to swap out SoC modules, you would need a wiring harness to unplug/plug in the old and new SoC modules. Right now, those modules are soldered directly to the system board. The modularity would make the phone's form factor start to approach that of bulky prototyping boxes.

It is a great idea, but there are some practicality considerations.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 03:24 4

29. Arman (Posts: 42; Member since: 08 Jul 2013)


yep, exactly..

but some parts can be modular without any problem(may be different effect for different devices)
for example camera module,all manufactures design and produce this part as a modular component so there wont be a problem to make it standard (like using thundorbolt or USB 3.0 standard for faster buffer)..

or battery , or RAM... display .. memory card..

Imagine all of these parts using Thundorbolt standard. you can have 2 memory card madule and no camera.. or double the RAM and no memory card.. or buy a huge A$$ phablet board and add more modules to your previous ones....

I think SoC can't be modular because its almost impossible for mobile processor manufactures. but many parts can be modular without any compromise in SIZE or Capability..

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 03:04

28. itsdeepak4u2000 (Posts: 2099; Member since: 03 Nov 2012)


Check this out now you'll get that here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cr1-hzEpSR0

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:30 14

2. Penny (Posts: 988; Member since: 04 Feb 2011)


Damn, if this ends up being what we're all thinking, you could finally get your no-compromises perfect smartphone.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:32 10

3. gprime (Posts: 16; Member since: 05 Oct 2013)


That is what am talking about! A phone designed for anyones individual need.
Pefect phone:
Lumia's pureview camera
ultra high definistion screen 6 inch
5,000 mah battery
64bit processor to make future proff
on screen digital finger print scanner

this has nothing to do with the article but i wish google would buy ubuntu

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:32 18

4. noim1 (Posts: 286; Member since: 15 May 2012)


Seems like after the Open Software of Android ...Google is now opening the gates to Hardware ... Go Google & Moto --- > making real Innovation (unlike some fruit company who only knows how to sue)

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:35 6

8. reckless562 (Posts: 545; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)


crappIe

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:32

5. gust3r3u (Posts: 73; Member since: 11 Apr 2013)


is that a picture of a cat with glasses next to the motos? what in the world were they smoking, why would you need to change the pieces if the hardware is the best they can put, if i want a bigger batt do i get a thicker square? sounds trippi ..

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:32 1

6. reckless562 (Posts: 545; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)


awesomeness

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:33 1

7. gprime (Posts: 16; Member since: 05 Oct 2013)


That is what am talking about! A phone designed for anyones individual need.
Pefect phone:
Lumia's pureview camera
ultra high definistion screen 6 inch
5,000 mah battery
64bit processor to make future proff
on screen digital finger print scanner

this has nothing to do with the article but i wish google would buy ubuntu

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:35 1

9. datsyuk (Posts: 152; Member since: 11 Jan 2012)


Amazing. Could probably build a phone for much cheaper and continuously upgrade it for a little while before maybe starting from scratch. I bet it will be more affordable than what is offered now. Have been waiting for this forever now.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:36 2

10. GeekMovement (Posts: 1497; Member since: 09 Sep 2011)


Innovation. I can't wait to see what Motorola has in store for us.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:45 1

11. Finest (Posts: 68; Member since: 16 Aug 2013)


Now this is good news finally the specs war will come to an end amd the unstoppable release of multiple smartphones and flagships will soon be over

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:46 1

12. DRavago (Posts: 5; Member since: 11 Oct 2013)


This is the best thing tech related I've seen all year...
DROOL

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:47

13. xfire99 (Posts: 367; Member since: 14 Mar 2012)


WoW nice and innovation of the year! But real ugly with all modular in place and really need nice suiting case for it too. :)

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:50

15. marceldy (Posts: 16; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


I would love to see a drop test on that one! :D

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 05:07

31. Pancholo (Posts: 370; Member since: 27 Feb 2012)


*Drops*

Blocky module pieces fly everywhere!

You pick them up and plug 'em back in.

Voila! It's like it never happened.

Anyway, this thing would be a dream to repair if it ever gets effed up by getting dropped with a case. Just switch the damaged modules (if any) and presto!

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:52

16. Bozzor (Posts: 88; Member since: 02 May 2012)


http://www.slashgear.com/phonebloks-modular-smartphone-concept-sees-mass-support-before-reality-14297832/

Feeling a bit sorry for Dave Hakkens...

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 02:11 7

19. androidrocks (Posts: 32; Member since: 14 Apr 2012)


"Motorola also met with Dave Hakkens, the creator of Phonebloks, who has a similar idea for a modular phone".

You did not read the article I guess...

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 14:05

42. psigate (Posts: 6; Member since: 24 Sep 2012)


I think he just got himself a job... whats to be sorry about?

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 01:55 1

17. tigermcm (Posts: 607; Member since: 02 Sep 2009)


ummmmm im not knocking motorola but for months now there's been a vid circulating on FB with something extremely similar to this i think it was called phoneblocks

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 02:16 1

20. emadshiny (Posts: 1086; Member since: 05 Dec 2012)


Sorry to say that but Motorola is not the first one to do this:
http://www.xperiablog.net/2013/07/02/sony-xtrud-concept-highlights-a-modular-future-wed-like-to-see/

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 02:22 2

24. AliNSiddiqui (Posts: 306; Member since: 19 Sep 2012)


Motorola has been working on this for a year.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 02:16 1

21. kanagadeepan (Posts: 590; Member since: 24 Jan 2012)


even though the resulting phone will be too thick, the idea is great, but implementation will be pretty hard too...

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 02:18 1

22. Sniggly (Posts: 6490; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)


Oh, this is beautiful. I'm willing to bet that with Google and Motorola's backing, modular smartphones could become freaking HUGE. If they introduce a marketplace tool similar to the Play Store and Motomaker rolled into one, making it easy for consumers to put together, it could take off.

I think the best way to implement the manufacturing of the parts would be to have Motorola actually shoulder the manufacturing costs of the components and give the developer of the parts a cut of the profits. Otherwise I'm not sure how they'll entice independent developers to come in and try to design, since not everyone can cobble together mass produced parts for customers to snap into their phones.

But overall this is a beautiful concept, a big company helping realize the ideas set forth by PhoneBloks.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 02:21 2

23. gytisxp (Posts: 1; Member since: 07 Aug 2013)


phoneblocks anyone :D

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 02:43

25. sergiobr (Posts: 310; Member since: 25 Feb 2013)


Awesome !

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 02:46

26. Sondae (Posts: 181; Member since: 02 Jan 2013)


This is a good innovation making your phone customizable you can choose what you want to put on your phone because not all people have same needs or wants in a phone. I cant wait to see this for real.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 02:59

27. GrapeEyes (Posts: 243; Member since: 01 Sep 2013)


While their at it, they might as well include tablets as well :)

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 05:11 1

32. Pancholo (Posts: 370; Member since: 27 Feb 2012)


Oh, boy! Oh, boy! Oh, boy! Tablets have all the back space to have customizeable anything!

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 04:16 2

30. vananucho (Posts: 38; Member since: 01 Jun 2011)


With intel getting more into the phone market and shrinking it's chips, it isn't hard to imagine them doing a "socket" module/thing in a certain future like we have in PC's if this module thing gets some further developement and acceptance from the OEM's . Also nvidia could get into the game and provide some GPU solutions too, just imagine, a phone with an i7 processor and kepler graphics *o* or a cheaper one with a low-range celeron solution for those who dont need too much power.

posted on 30 Oct 2013, 02:42

47. miles16852 (Posts: 189; Member since: 20 Oct 2011)


i am still NOT interested in looking at a tiny 5 or 7 or 8" screen!,, NO WAY, ill stick to my 27LCD! thank you!

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 05:36

33. taikucing (unregistered)


make it for laptop first!!!

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 06:48

34. joey_sfb (Posts: 1973; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)


That easy a keyboard dock that provides additional battery charge for the tablet. Check out Asus infinite Series.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 08:04

35. Kelley71 (Posts: 44; Member since: 26 Nov 2012)


Slap a keyboard on it and call me intrigued.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 08:09

36. karankp (Posts: 3; Member since: 22 Aug 2013)


it is a very old project on which the work is going on..!!
just take a look..
it is like copying the idea.
it is a nice idea to divide the phone into the modules and can be accessed according to the use..

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 08:10

37. karankp (Posts: 3; Member since: 22 Aug 2013)


go on thunderclap.it and project no. 2931-phonebloks

posted on 30 Oct 2013, 08:10

49. warrenellis93 (Posts: 36; Member since: 21 Jul 2011)


yeah, that was all over youtube about a month ago with millions of view, i must assume this is related to phonebloks.

posted on 04 Nov 2013, 14:24

51. Jommick (Posts: 124; Member since: 10 Sep 2013)


It is, according to the article

posted on 07 Nov 2013, 19:41

52. warrenellis93 (Posts: 36; Member since: 21 Jul 2011)


nobody has time for articles

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 08:14

38. mclifford81 (Posts: 65; Member since: 26 Jan 2010)


Dave Hakkens thought of this and so have many other people. Myself and a friend who went to Cornell thought up of this idea years ago but couldn't figure out how to actually have competing manufacturers all sit down and agree on making a cell phone with the capabilities of being upgraded like you can with computers without the greed factor kicking in. The idea and technology is there but it's the manufactures of each component that you would have to get past and that is no easy task.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 08:37

39. jroc74 (Posts: 3978; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)


I wonder if this is the customizable phone that was hinted at all those months ago.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 09:10

40. jdot104 (Posts: 40; Member since: 17 Jun 2011)


This is pretty intriguing. I thought it couldn't be done!

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 13:40

41. 14545 (Posts: 985; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)


While this would be nice, there will be limitations. I mean just look at computers, you have different sockets for different generations, etc. So while in concept I think this would be awesome, I seriously doubt it is achievable. Then there would be possible software limitations, or hardware/hardware limitations. For example, you may be able to capture 4k video with the camera, but the processor may not be able to handle that. Therefore you upgraded for no reason. (except in terms of better optics).

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 14:08

43. bwhiting (Posts: 146; Member since: 15 Jun 2013)


I would love to try this concept out. Seems like it would be a great idea to do this and work on making my own custom phone.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 17:17

44. Stuntman (Posts: 669; Member since: 01 Aug 2011)


I'm hoping for a landscape keyboard module.

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 19:52

45. roscuthiii (Posts: 1717; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)


I've been wanting this since a while back... When I first saw pictures of the Sony Xperia it seemed to have a little glass panel that separates the body from the bottom bezel. I thought it might have been an interchangeable module. That didn't come to fruition (at least not that I know of) but ever since then it's been a concept I've been interested in.
Maybe this time...

posted on 29 Oct 2013, 21:01

46. 777light777 (Posts: 37; Member since: 14 Aug 2013)


Who else thinks this should be named the "Moto Mod"?

posted on 30 Oct 2013, 08:08

48. warrenellis93 (Posts: 36; Member since: 21 Jul 2011)


anybody think this has any connection to phone blocks that was an idea on youtube about a month ago.

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