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What do you make of Google's modular phone project Ara?

Posted: , by Daniel P.

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What do you make of Google's modular phone project Ara?

Google's Project Ara might be inherited from Motorola, but the folks at Mountain View are noticing the huge potential in a modular phone concept, and are working hard to master the prototypes, wooing developers in the meantime. 

The premise is very simple, yet quite hard to execute right - you get a barebones chassis, and add components to your liking, until you get a customized handset, tailored to your specific needs. There will be screen sizes and resolutions to choose from, different processors, battery capacities, and even camera modules. That's one of the biggest ideas around Ara, too - Google plans to launch a hub where you can buy modules, much like the Play Store, but for hardware bits, and with an open model of enrolling. This should be a boon for manufacturers big and small, but also for developers who can squeeze innovative uses out of off-the-shelf Ara component combos. 

Who knows what the braniacs from Google might come up with until next year, when Project Ara is expected to land for retail presence. That's why we wanted to ask you if this modular phone concept is something you consider ready for take-off, or do you think it is too hard to master, and will remain one of Google's pet projects? Take your pick, and chime in the comments.

Phonearena polls
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What do you make of Google's modular phone project Ara?
51.55%
1047 votes
(1047 votes) It's the future, I can finally cook my own smartphone, and, coming from Google, I expect value for the money, too!
39.39%
800 votes
(800 votes) Sounds promising, so I'll wait and see what are the modules on offer, and then decide on Project Ara.
9.06%
184 votes
(184 votes) Modular electronics have been tried before with limited success, nothing beats a uniform handset, tested thoroughly by a major manufacturer.

2031 votes

57 Comments
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posted on 17 Apr 2014, 09:31 15

1. AfterShock (Posts: 2812; Member since: 02 Nov 2012)


Myself, I'm all for it.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 10:51 3

18. InspectorGadget80 (Posts: 6584; Member since: 26 Mar 2011)


Diddy. Make your own phone without paying 600-700$ on a phone.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 11:22 10

20. AppleHateBoy (unregistered)


It will save the trouble of buying a new phone every year. You can just buy the latest SoC every year. It also helps minimize waste. It makes repairing super easy. There are a lot of advantages and that's why I am excited.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 12:38 2

27. dbdrummer88 (Posts: 29; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)


Same here! I expect the initial investment of getting all the parts you want may be around $400-$500 depending on how many high end parts you get. Either way, this phone will allow you to have the best at any moment, and be cheaper than everything else. It's a win-win!

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 13:18 2

32. sgodsell (Posts: 1293; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


There is nothing stopping project Ara from making even larger endo-skeletons. Like a tablet size or two.

posted on 18 Apr 2014, 04:49 1

52. lallolu (Posts: 240; Member since: 18 Sep 2012)


And I am assuming it will be runnin stock android. Except if they make it possible to choose ROM to install.

This is going to be really interesting.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 13:21

33. ILikeBubbles (Posts: 302; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)


although depending on module price i'll probably end up spending about that anyway :p

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 14:56

40. bbblader (Posts: 580; Member since: 24 Oct 2011)


Even if you buy it first by the price of a normal flagship,you'll need to buy it once no less than every 3 years,just with changing the parts you need once at a time.That is actually the same as buying a high end phone every 3 years,but doing that over time will be an advantage over anything else

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 23:37

47. Tommy1960i (Posts: 100; Member since: 11 Oct 2013)


This is good for customers but not for companies. I think in general this is not the best idea from an economic point.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 23:35

46. Tommy1960i (Posts: 100; Member since: 11 Oct 2013)


I am worried about sowftware integration and gaming performance for a smartphone like that. iOS apps are very nice and have a much bigger quality than Android ones because as we know at Apple software and hardware are very nice integrated.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 16:12 3

41. jroc74 (Posts: 4966; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)


Yup..

And I'm glad the last choice got the least votes. Just in the PC market....the last choice only applies to Apple. There are very, very few OEM's that build decent PC's.

PC's... its really good to go the custom route. Either you build it or have a company do it for you.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 17:46 2

44. vincelongman (Posts: 1334; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)


Agreed,
There is TOTALLY NO OEM that makes good gaming PCs for good prices

posted on 18 Apr 2014, 15:46 1

53. InspectorGadget80 (Posts: 6584; Member since: 26 Mar 2011)


my fault i meant DIDDO stupid auto keyboard.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 09:32 1

2. bodzio1809 (Posts: 68; Member since: 28 Aug 2013)


The main disadvantage of this idea is that some components don't need as much space as one block and can waste space.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 09:50 2

8. jaytai0106 (Posts: 1318; Member since: 30 Mar 2011)


The phone will be somewhat bulkier. However, this phone isn't going to be an popular phone like iPhone, S5, M8, or Z2. It'll be for selected group of people who loves the freedom of changing the spec to their needs. Look at some custom computer, the case is just huge!! Mine is 2.5 feet tall and that beast is just sexy sitting in my office :P

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 10:04 2

11. bodzio1809 (Posts: 68; Member since: 28 Aug 2013)


The idea is great. Everything depends on how they will do it. I just imagine getting good looking phone with onscreen buttons, amoled display and two front speakers :)

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 13:50 1

36. jaytai0106 (Posts: 1318; Member since: 30 Mar 2011)


SEXY :D

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 23:56 1

48. azers07 (Posts: 27; Member since: 17 Aug 2013)


Blackbsung M8 =)

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 10:08 1

12. phljcnth (Posts: 269; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)


Of course blocks of the same use shall be created from a single mold regardless of its capacity or variant. The main issue must be about keeping the phone firmly together without having to put on a case or band and not compromising the ease of swapping. I am also interested about how the software is going to adjust to any abrupt user modification.

This is why I think Samsung is catering much more options than what a consumer can think of. Different sizes, specs, colors, you name it.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 10:16 1

15. bodzio1809 (Posts: 68; Member since: 28 Aug 2013)


Yes, but there is still no Samsung phone that I would really want :) And I think that many of people think that way. S5 is great phone, but I would change many things in it. I made my vision of how S5 should look like:https://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/1140x1075q90/836/903e.jpg
I don't need metal. I would prefer matte plastic finish on the back without this (in my opinion) ugly dots.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 13:17

30. sgodsell (Posts: 1293; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


The nice thing about Samsung phones is there are a ton of third party backs and cases for phones.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 13:56

37. bodzio1809 (Posts: 68; Member since: 28 Aug 2013)


Yes you can get even metal back cover :)

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 11:25 2

21. Stuntman (Posts: 734; Member since: 01 Aug 2011)


I the disadvantage of phones available now is that they focus on slimness instead of the features that I really want.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 11:38

24. bodzio1809 (Posts: 68; Member since: 28 Aug 2013)


Agree. Also I would like to have bigger choice, not only 5+ inch screen flagships.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 13:22

34. Shatter (Posts: 2030; Member since: 29 May 2013)


What about multiple components in one block?

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 13:59 1

38. bodzio1809 (Posts: 68; Member since: 28 Aug 2013)


I hope that it will be possible. I saw modules with only one block on front. So that probably mean that you can get block with screen, camera, speaker etc.

posted on 19 Apr 2014, 20:46

57. JonBjSig (Posts: 176; Member since: 17 Nov 2011)


I'm guessing there will be group blocks.
A block for all your sensors for example.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 09:35 9

3. Anshulonweb (Posts: 320; Member since: 07 Feb 2014)


it is the future of smartphones....

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 09:36

4. bigv6691 (Posts: 10; Member since: 08 Jan 2014)


I'm excited about this project, only thing I do hope happens is you can download any os available. Like Firefox, Ubuntu touch, and maybe even windows 8. That would be pretty awesome.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 09:48 7

5. jaytai0106 (Posts: 1318; Member since: 30 Mar 2011)


With Google behind it, that'll never happen XD

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 11:51

25. bigv6691 (Posts: 10; Member since: 08 Jan 2014)


Pipe dreams X3. I mean I'd love to have that, maybe independent devs could make it possible.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 09:49 3

6. SleepingOz (unregistered)


I doubt it will since it's developed by Google but I don't see any problem about this since Android is the most advanced mobile OS available right now.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 09:50 5

7. SIGPRO (Posts: 470; Member since: 03 Oct 2012)


Running on Android......never gonna buy it!

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 10:19 18

16. dorianb (Posts: 410; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)


Where's the down-vote button?!

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 13:23 3

35. Shatter (Posts: 2030; Member since: 29 May 2013)


We need it.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 11:37 2

23. Kriksis (Posts: 82; Member since: 27 Aug 2012)


Same here SIGPRO...

I'm just not interested in Android powered technology...

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 14:11

39. grahaman27 (Posts: 347; Member since: 05 Apr 2013)


I'm sure someone will get something else working on it... But good luck to them, no other is will be able to support this module design.

posted on 18 Apr 2014, 02:20

51. a2thec (Posts: 2; Member since: 18 Apr 2014)


Enter: Ubuntu touch

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 09:59

9. xoxoGeorges (Posts: 207; Member since: 11 Jul 2013)


In five years, maybe

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 10:04 1

10. HouTexan (Posts: 315; Member since: 08 Jan 2012)


Game changer

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 10:09

13. ArtSim98 (Posts: 2976; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)


This has been my dream for a few years now and finally it's happening!

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 10:12

14. mclifford81 (Posts: 68; Member since: 26 Jan 2010)


It's genius I wish I had thought of it myself years ago! Wait I did and my friends all laughed at me and said it would never work due to manufacturers being greedy and not wanting their profits cut. I shouldn't have listened. Oh well on to the next big thing. Portable H.U.D. with built in mobile functionality which works across all mobile platforms!

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 12:50 1

28. cncrim (Posts: 518; Member since: 15 Aug 2011)


Unfortunately, without enough money idea will be just idea.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 10:36

17. PhoneArenaUser (Posts: 5482; Member since: 05 Aug 2011)


It will be awesome! :)

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 10:51

19. HermanR (Posts: 4; Member since: 19 Mar 2014)


It's promising, it's future. But I don't think it will make mobiles cheaper, instead more expensive with more often hardware update requirements. Also there will be problems with compatibility of hardware and software. For example Samsung motherboard will not support Nvidia chip-set, but latest Assassin Creed game will be running Only with Nvidia Tegra chip. That's the downside. On good side, if you can afford, the always up to date hardware without full handset replacement and full customization.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 11:36 3

22. Scott93274 (Posts: 1182; Member since: 06 Aug 2013)


I told a co-worker about Ara, he said he'd chuck his iPhone right out the window for this phone. That beings said, I think the phone’s success is entirely in the hands of 3rd party developers/manufacturers. I believe that there’s enough consumer interest, but if the hardware isn’t diverse enough or plentiful enough, it’ll kill the excitement really fast.

So now I have to ask, how will Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC, Motorola, Nokia, Lenovo, Microsoft, and Apple all react to this revolutionary jump in smart phone design, and how do they plan to keep people buying their products?

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 12:13

26. papss (unregistered)


I absolutely agree❕ I just hope they move the segment forward.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 13:06

29. cncrim (Posts: 518; Member since: 15 Aug 2011)


Think this kind phone probably still great for geek tech as far as average consumer might not to crazy about this. First the hardware need a driver and that is a trick for Google. Second, if customer want all the feature compare to the flagship how much money do we save. If the answer is about $100 cheaper I think customer will just buy the phone off the shelf get subside from carrier. Headache free.

I think Are is great for geek but I dont think for regular comsumer, look at PC as example kost people still buy laptop and desktop off the shelf not many essemble one.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 13:18

31. Shatter (Posts: 2030; Member since: 29 May 2013)


This is a lot different from custom PCs since it appears to be just plug and play. They said the base model will be $50.

A good question is how secure are these locked in? Will there be complete backs to hide it? If you drop it how easy is it to damage the parts or can they pop out?

Google is not the only company working on this.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 16:26

42. Stuntman (Posts: 734; Member since: 01 Aug 2011)


The modules are secured to the backplane using magnets. When you need to remove a module, the magnet for that module is turned down, so you can remove the module easily. Once you put a module in place, the magnet is turned up, so that it won't easily pop off. I would expect that the magnet strength is turned up enough so that a normal drop would likely not cause pieces to fly off easily.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 16:32

43. Stuntman (Posts: 734; Member since: 01 Aug 2011)


There are two features that I am keeping an eye out for with this phone. The first is a landscape slider keyboard. The second is a large battery module.

Right now, if you want to get a phone with a landscape slider keyboard, you have to buy a crappy phone. Back in 2010, the gap between a keyboard phone and the equivalent flagship at the time was not so huge that it was worth the trade-off for me. Two years ago, the landscape keyboard phone I got for my wife didn't even qualify as a smartphone which was actually good since the plan was cheaper. Now, I'll be hard pressed to even find one. I'm hoping that such a module will actually exist and the trade-off of having such a module will not be very great.

posted on 17 Apr 2014, 22:46

45. LATOKYO (Posts: 8; Member since: 05 Dec 2013)


Project Ara is actually not that different than what we are seeing today in other consumerist realms. What I mean by this is that many companies are selling their products based on the concept of "mass customization." For instance, look at the clothing industry, you can now literally pick and choose the jeans of your liking, from fit, fabric, and color. Or the auto industry where you can "build" your car from pre-made selections. Albeit these two examples contain decisions made by the company, it gives the consumer a slight bit of autonomy over the product they potentially want to buy.

So I really wouldn't say that Project Ara is the future, but that mass customization is the future. As some people have stated earlier in this thread, this phone is not meant for the mass consumers, but for the select few who like to have full control over their device (like myself). I personally am VERY excited for the potentials of this project, however, I feel that the first few iterations are going to be very hard to sell because of all of the potential faults that it will inevitably experience. However, if Google is persistent with this device, it will succeed to a very high degree. The biggest challenge of this project is the whole idea that it will change the "language" of mobile technology and marketing. Instead of yearly updates to an entire device, we may have bi-yearly updates (6 months) to PARTS that will gain just as much recognition than an entirely new device. For instance, instead of waiting for an entire new device that receives all of the intense attention with leaks and rumors, we will see major updates toPARTS, which really changes the language of consumerism; instead of throwing away your entire new phone, you just trade in your old part for a new part plus the difference of price (maybe?)

Anyhow, I have high hopes for this project and I hope continues even if it may fail in the beginning.

posted on 18 Apr 2014, 00:01

49. express77 (unregistered)


It will be great for low/mid income people like myself.

posted on 18 Apr 2014, 01:25

50. fireblade (Posts: 709; Member since: 27 Dec 2013)


I like the concept of modular phone. But please make it happens in laptop first. And what about the battery? It seems this concept sacrifices the battery size for other modular parts

posted on 18 Apr 2014, 21:41

54. Ubi2447 (Posts: 131; Member since: 14 Feb 2012)


They are saying 50 dollars. Honestly Id pay 250+ for something like this if it's well supported with a selection of modules.

posted on 19 Apr 2014, 01:56

55. Karriope (Posts: 95; Member since: 07 Jun 2013)


As a proponent of how PCs are (sometimes) fun to assemble, I'd love a self-configured phone.
But in recent years I've also come to be well aware of the problems of such customizability, support and troubleshooting is more difficult (e.g. you have to figure out if its your motherboard, your CPU, your power supply even... that's the problem...) and I expect the same of at least initial instances of Project Ara.

Still, it's a "we'll see" thing for me.

posted on 19 Apr 2014, 02:04

56. Karriope (Posts: 95; Member since: 07 Jun 2013)


I do also wonder if they'll be able to make Ara devices ingress protected. I'm quite ... used to the peace of mind of not worrying about water and my devices...

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