Phonebloks creator not happy with Google's changes to Project Ara

Phonebloks creator not happy with Google's changes to Project Ara
Dave Hakkens, the guy who dreamed up modular phone company Phonebloks, has posted a message to Google on his blog. "Re-think Project Ara," is the headline in big letters. Among the issues he has with the program is a change made by Google that has made the frame of the handset a totally functional phone. The frame includes the CPU, antennas, sensors, battery and display. These parts will not be swappable; if the screen cracks, you will need to replace the whole phone, not just the glass as envisioned. Yes, this phone can get obsolete.

When Hakkens came up with Phonebloks, and worked with Motorola on Project Ara, the game plan called for all components to be replaceable on a modular level. Now that Google has changed that, he isn't happy. However, he does like the blocky design, which makes it more like the original Phonebloks concept.

Hakkens had a very interesting line in his blog. "A system like this makes other companies want to compete instead of collaborate." He points out that had Google really planned on building a phone for the entire world, it should have made it an open system with standards owned by the industry. Instead, he worries that "Everything happens under the umbrella of Google. They are in charge, they make the rules. They can decided to suddenly change the connectors, or design."

The Phonebloks creator says that Google is pushing the limits and actually praises the company for how far they have come. But he says that with the amount of resources that Google has, they could do better. Instead of an open marketplace where owners can purchase modules for their phone, modules will be sold through Google with the company taking a small cut.


source: DaveHakkens via Engadget

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31 Comments

1. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

I agree with them, I'm disappointed that ARA's RAM, processor and GPU aren't upgradeable. Display...haven't even seen it in any of the ads. Only the minor components that I wasn't even looking to upgrade in the first place seem to be upgradeable at the moment...only time will tell what else module makers make upgradeable that'll make it appealing, if anything.

3. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

I think that it's safe to say that we all agree with one another that RAM/CPU/Battery/display all need to be removable. The whole point of Ara is to have a forever phone that you can simply swap out various component to keep it relevant. This is very disappointing.

8. vincelongman

Posts: 5748; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

The battery in the frame is for hot swapping other batteries RAM/CPU/GPU are in one package in all phones (sometimes even the NAND is there too) Its far too inefficient (power and space wise) to have them seperate Ara's current connector doesn't have enough bandwidth, it would bottleneck the RAM/CPU/GPU Agreed, on the display, that one was disappointing

16. sgodsell

Posts: 7573; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

I totally agree. I wish they would have only used wire leads for the power, and fibre for the transmission between the modules. They could achieve 50 times the speed or more. Put all out transmissions on one fibre, and all input on another fibre. BTW there is nothing stopping Ara right now from adding other modules that have a Processor, GPU, ram, and storage. As a matter of fact that is how you would upgrade your processor in the first version of Ara with an AP (Application Processor) module. The thing is with the display it could work with a low resolution display just fine. However if you use a QHD display, then that has a resolution of 2560x1440. Or in terms of bytes 2560x1440x4 = 14,745,600 bytes per frame. Now if you want 60 fps, then you multiply by 60 gives you a total of 884,736,000 bytes per second. Change that to a 4k display and you are looking at 2,001,024,000 bytes per second, or over 2gb per second. Fibre can handle those speeds with flying colors, whereas copper could not especially when you take into account that there would be more modules interrupting on the same wirred bus, like a 4k camera module, or others. I said from the beginning that they should have used fibre optics instead.

21. Kwyjibo

Posts: 4; Member since: May 29, 2016

Display port can transfer up to 57 Gbps (=7.125 GB/s) still using copper wires. Display port uses just 6 wires for the data transfer, so it hat 1.1875 GB/s per wire. With this data rate you would just need 2 wires for 2 GB/s. Also it can transfer at full bandwith up to 3m far, on a phone you need only a few cm, so you might even get 2 GB/s over a single copper wire.

28. vincelongman

Posts: 5748; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Google claims their connector can handle 11.9 Gbps Which is more than DisplayPort 1.1, which can support 2560x1600 at 60Hz and RGB With VESA’s Display Stream Compression, it should in theory support 3840x2160 at 60Hz and RGB (and HDR 2560x1600) Assuming VESA's 3:1 claim is true BUT we dont know how bad the latency is I suspect that's the reason why the display is attached is otherwise the latency is too high That's another reason why is highly unlikely we will get CPU, GPU and ram seperated soon

4. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

So do I. The phone has given up the key selling point that no other phone could claim: immunity to becoming obsolete. Now that the battery and SoC aren't swappable, it's like a blocky version of a normal phone. The way that lenovo is doing the new Moto Z phones is more effective than this is. If ARA was still completely modular, it has an ace up its sleeve no one could touch. But still, I give them props. They're making something better than that LG G5 that I'll never buy. Looking at that Moto Z Play, though...

2. Elfmonster unregistered

Omg the battery isn't swappable? A modular phone with a stuck battery? Mistake. I was really looking forward to this. Now, not.

5. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Well this concept would still allow for additional batteries to be connected... but I think that they need to stay true to the original concept as that's what we all are asking for.

7. vincelongman

Posts: 5748; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

There's a battery in the frame for hot swapping additional batteries The battery in the frame is probably not easily removable But the additional batteries are hot swappable

19. Kwyjibo

Posts: 4; Member since: May 29, 2016

But will the phone still work if the included battery is totally dead?

6. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Samsung should just create their modular phone and make it better, they probably will anyway.

13. catze86

Posts: 731; Member since: Dec 07, 2015

I believe Samsung will never make a phone with swapable CPU/GPU. Security is the main reason.

25. Kwyjibo

Posts: 4; Member since: May 29, 2016

I don't think, that a swapable CPU/GPU is a great security concern. You still physical access to swap the CPU/GPU, with physical access you can also do many other kinds of manipulation. E.g. installing malware, which is possible with physical access on all android phones and most of them don't even have an antivirus included, so it will not be detected either.

27. catze86

Posts: 731; Member since: Dec 07, 2015

Still Better than swapable CPU phone. For example : Your phone is stolen. The thieves just need the Memory and CPU moduls. The thieves change the moduls with the other ones and send it back to you. See, you still have your phone back. But the thieves have your original moduls and your datas on the thieves phone. Its because everythin is swapable. It is too risky. Sorry if I am sound stupid.

9. blueghost211

Posts: 57; Member since: Oct 19, 2015

I agree with most of you guys about the key components not being replaceable. It's unfortunate that that's the case. Saying that, I still believe in the Ara phone. Google is pouring serious money into the development of this phone. Will it be the future proof phone we giggled like little school girls for? No, but the possibilities for future versions could be exponentially better. There will be growing pains like we've learned with LG (I'm the minority that actually liked the G5), but it's necessary for truly honing in on that dream phone we imagined it could be.

17. Bankz

Posts: 2550; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

How is this different from what MOTO is doing? If anything I prefer MOTO's implementation tbh.. By the way the blocks/modules are so tiny that I wonder how much mah battery can it possibly contain? Or What kind of speakers can those probably contain? With that little amount of space? Or what kind of lens can even be useful for the space available for the blocks?

10. catze86

Posts: 731; Member since: Dec 07, 2015

Of course the Display/CPU/GPU is not swapable. Because those are the main sell points of the device. If they are swapable, no one buy their flagship phone. Duh. I am more disappointed the sound chip is not swapable.

18. sgodsell

Posts: 7573; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Not true on the sound at all. There is nothing stopping someone from making a sound module with a high fidelity DAC and a 3.5mm jack or other types of outputs.

11. catze86

Posts: 731; Member since: Dec 07, 2015

Of course the Display/CPU/GPU is not swapable. Because those are the main sell points of the device. If they are swapable, no one buy their flagship phone. Duh. I am more disappointed the sound chip is not swapable.

12. catze86

Posts: 731; Member since: Dec 07, 2015

Of course the Display/CPU/GPU is not swapable. Because those are the main sell points of the device. If they are swapable, no one buy their flagship phone. Duh. I am more disappointed the sound chip is not swapable.

14. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Triple post? That said why wouldn't they be swappable? they could then charge prices for the individual components that probably would be more profitable? similar to how computer hardware is sold?

20. Kwyjibo

Posts: 4; Member since: May 29, 2016

The still earn more money if you have to replace it with the display unit, because the display is actually usually the most expensive part of the whole phone. They jut don't want to completely give up their successful strategy of planned obsolescence.

22. catze86

Posts: 731; Member since: Dec 07, 2015

If everything swapable there's no reason to buy the expensive ones. And OEMs kill each other in the price range.

23. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Well isn't the whole deal with make the phone you want, that you get the parts you want, if you want an expensive camera you get that, if you want a great screen you get that? but then a cpu/gpu combo if you need more power?

24. catze86

Posts: 731; Member since: Dec 07, 2015

We are too greedy. Good for us, not good for them. If we want more power, the only win win situation for upgrade hardware is trough their service centers..

15. Bankz

Posts: 2550; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

How is this different from what MOTO is doing? If anything I prefer MOTO's implementation tbh.. By the way the blocks/modules are so tiny that I wonder how much mah battery can it possibly contain? Or What kind of speakers can those probably contain? With that little amount of space? Or what kind of lens can even be useful for the space available for the blocks?

26. bigcjm

Posts: 57; Member since: Jul 27, 2014

I think you may be under the impression the phone will be as thin as the current flagships. This phone seems to have zero inent of looking sexy or sleek Just 100% practical. Wouldnt be surprised if this was 60% or more thicker and a dash longer than most phones these days. Thats probably where the space comes in, but that just my opinion.

29. gigi3

Posts: 32; Member since: Aug 16, 2014

So, project ARA became project "არა".

30. tokuzumi

Posts: 1961; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

Project ARA is already doomed. No one will buy it, and Google will think that no one wants it.

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