Motorola wants to make your smartphone modular, upgradable with Ara

By on October 29, 2013, 8:30 AM
motorola, smartphone, modular, ara, project ara

One of the best aspects of owning a desktop PC is that it's upgradeable: when one part becomes out of date, it's easier and cheaper to swap it out with something new, as opposed to purchasing a whole new system. Motorola is hoping to take this pricinple and apply it to smartphones with 'Project Ara', a free, open and modular mobile hardware platform.

In Motorola's words, the company wants to "do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software", through fostering a third-party hardware development ecosystem, increasing the pace of innovation and lowering the barriers of entry for smartphone hardware production.

Project Ara itself consists of a base hardware unit called the "endoskeleton", which has different slots that modules fit in to. Modules can be anything from the device's system-on-a-chip or camera, to a display, battery, keyboard or even new sensors like a pulse oximiter. Images Motorola has provided show a basic frame with rectangular slots for modules, which connect to one another through contacts.

To bring the project to frution, Motorola is teaming up with a company called Phonebloks, who have a similar idea. Enthusiasts who are interested in Ara can sign up to become Scouts, to give feedback that will help shape the project; when it launches, the hundred most active Scouts will receive an Ara device for free.

Motorola are planning to release a Module Developer's Kit (MDK) this winter, with even more to come in the months to follow. If the company can properly execute the vision for Project Ara, we could be seeing phones that only require upgrading, rather than replacing, in just a few year's time.




User Comments: 17

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Nima304 said:

This sounds very similar to Phonebloks.

[link]

2 people like this | AccordXTC said:

Lol Sound like you didn't read the whole article that say's they've teamed up with Phonebloks so yes it would sound very similar.

This sounds very similar to Phonebloks.

[link]

Arris Arris said:

I'll be interested to see how this ends up working or competing with "system on a chip" processors that are used in most phones at present.

roxxas2 said:

This sounds very similar to Phonebloks.

[link]

Did you read brah? They're teaming up with the people who MADE Phoneblocks.

Guest said:

Nima304,

Please read the article before posting:

"To bring the project to frution, Motorola is teaming up with a company called Phonebloks, who have a similar idea."

MilwaukeeMike said:

I'll be interested to see how this ends up working or competing with "system on a chip" processors that are used in most phones at present.

yeah, right... what else is there in a phone to upgrade? The screen and battery maybe. Do they plan on people being able to replace the radios to work with different networks or to use the latest wi-fi standard?

I could see it could be cool to buy a new shell and make your phone look entirely new for far less than a new phone.

Ranger1st Ranger1st said:

Knew someone would pick up on it.. it's a great idea.

GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

This idea can be epic, but its going to take a lot of effort to get this moving. I mean look at laptops, theres only a handful that are upgradeable at this day and age (Minus like swapping out an HDD or ram) and we have had those since the late 80's (well actually since 1975, but those were very early).

I would love to be able to swap out components to update the processor on the phone instead of buying a new phone, that would be a lot of fun.

2 people like this | lipe123 said:

Not really sold on this yet, it will open up MUCH more points of failure and typically its much much cheaper to mass produce one SOC than it is to create individual parts.

Still one advantage would be that it means they only need one model of phone as opposed to the current trend of 9001 models being released to cover all the different options. You could choose the options you need and get a phone that has exactly what you want on your budget.

Can't help but think that these things wont last very long, connectors would need to be REALLY well made that interfaces all the components to handle the typical abuse a smart phone takes.

JC713 JC713 said:

The phone design looks very much like Windows Phone OS. I like it.

Guest said:

Lipe123

Yeah, I don't see a lot of important parts being upgradable because they will probably more efficient if you integrate them into the SoC. But things like a universal standard for batteries and perhaps camera modules would be nice. For the rest we have MicroSD(which could do with a bit of a speed bump BTW) and microUSB(needs a speed bump and power bump though).

fredderf81 said:

Dont misunderstand me, this is an awesome idea. it would attract do-it-yourself'ers and modders alike. its a cool idea as well! combine the best of a few devices to make something unique to you....however...the carriers will shoot this down immediately. this would all but eliminate the need to sign a new contract to upgrade your device for cheap. if all I can do is grab a new component off amazon or ebay or any online site and swap it out to sort of upgrade my device, there is no reason to continue to buy the overpriced stuff from the carriers.

Littleczr Littleczr said:

Dont misunderstand me, this is an awesome idea. it would attract do-it-yourself'ers and modders alike. its a cool idea as well! combine the best of a few devices to make something unique to you....however...the carriers will shoot this down immediately. this would all but eliminate the need to sign a new contract to upgrade your device for cheap. if all I can do is grab a new component off amazon or ebay or any online site and swap it out to sort of upgrade my device, there is no reason to continue to buy the overpriced stuff from the carriers.

Your a genius my friend. You have just painted a picture of cell phone utopia.

ikesmasher said:

I love this idea, loved it when I saw phonebloks.

but id need a tough exoskeleton outside of the modules, lest I drop my phone and the processor flies off into the sunset

tonylukac said:

What I really like about building an htpc or computers in general is the the software is easily upgradable and improves with age, without starting from scratch. Flash and silverlight or whatever it uses' upgrades then caused it to be possible to stream the free (legal) verizon redbox version of the hobbit.

Guest said:

Okay everyone, just to clear the air - "phonebloks" is a company that can't spell the rudimentary word "Blocks" and made a video of the idea.

Motorola has been working on something similar for over a year.

They're working together? No, Motorola is probably paying them dirt as part of a marketing scheme.

Does "Phonebloks" own any patents? No. So they're pretty much nothing more than a group with a neat YouTube Video. Motorola will want you to buy their specific hardware at the price that is probably similar to getting a new phone anyway.

Besides, who wants modular when the next-gen cell phones will be flexible?*nerd*

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