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.

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

It's the future, I can finally cook my own smartphone, and, coming from Google, I expect value for the money, too!
51.55%
Sounds promising, so I'll wait and see what are the modules on offer, and then decide on Project Ara.
39.39%
Modular electronics have been tried before with limited success, nothing beats a uniform handset, tested thoroughly by a major manufacturer.
9.06%

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57 Comments

55. Karriope

Posts: 148; Member since: Jun 07, 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.

56. Karriope

Posts: 148; Member since: Jun 07, 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...

54. Ubi2447

Posts: 131; Member since: Feb 14, 2012

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

50. fireblade

Posts: 717; Member since: Dec 27, 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

49. express77 unregistered

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

45. LATOKYO

Posts: 8; Member since: Dec 05, 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.

22. Scott93274

Posts: 6044; Member since: Aug 06, 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?

26. papss unregistered

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

29. cncrim

Posts: 1590; Member since: Aug 15, 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.

31. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 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.

42. Stuntman

Posts: 843; Member since: Aug 01, 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.

43. Stuntman

Posts: 843; Member since: Aug 01, 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.

19. HermanR

Posts: 7; Member since: Mar 19, 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.

17. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

It will be awesome! :)

14. mclifford81

Posts: 91; Member since: Jan 26, 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!

28. cncrim

Posts: 1590; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

Unfortunately, without enough money idea will be just idea.

13. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

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

10. HouTexan

Posts: 462; Member since: Jan 08, 2012

Game changer

9. xoxoGeorges

Posts: 209; Member since: Jul 11, 2013

In five years, maybe

7. SIGPRO

Posts: 2818; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

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

16. dorianb

Posts: 617; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

Where's the down-vote button?!

35. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

We need it.

23. Kriksis

Posts: 94; Member since: Aug 27, 2012

Same here SIGPRO... I'm just not interested in Android powered technology...

39. grahaman27

Posts: 364; Member since: Apr 05, 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.

51. a2thec

Posts: 3; Member since: Apr 18, 2014

Enter: Ubuntu touch

4. bigv6691

Posts: 10; Member since: Jan 08, 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.

5. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

With Google behind it, that'll never happen XD

25. bigv6691

Posts: 10; Member since: Jan 08, 2014

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

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.

3. Anshulonweb

Posts: 468; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

it is the future of smartphones....

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