What are Modular smartphones?
Google Ara and Modules
Modular smart phones take the idea of “smartphones” and allows you to physically customize your phone in ways you never could before. The phone itself should still contain a CPU, GPU, Memory, etc. — basically everything required to function. The Modular aspect comes in because it allows you to customize some aspects of the phone via hardware “modules”. We can already customize our Android OS to suit our needs, now we need to be able to customize the hardware as well. Some may prefer dual speakers on their phone, whereas others would only want 1 speaker, but a higher quality camera.
There are many options that we currently have to choose amongst when making a smartphone purchase. With modular phones, you wont have to give up that impressive sounding speaker to have a better camera because the phone manufacturer decided it should be that way. No longer will you have to upgrade your whole entire phone because you don’t like your speakers. If you decide that your current phone speakers aren’t cutting it, you can just upgrade that module — possibly get a bigger music module. It is an interesting concept and is no longer the future or “just” sci-fi. Google’s Ara is due to ship the Developer Edition this Fall (2016). New concepts and techniques get me excited because they show creative thinking – in design and implementation.
The Google Ara has a front and a back side, which both accept modules. The front, may have a screen and speakers, and the back has what looks basically like Windows Tiles. Other modules available in various tile shapes: 1X1 or 1X2 or even 2X2 modules, slide right into position. You can customize your phone however you want:
Customized module phone (Google Ara)
Module phones require a base skeleton (aka Ara Frame) that will house all the various modules and base components such as CPU, GPU, RAM, etc.
Currently, if the camera on our phone stops functioning, we most likely opt to buy a new phone because repairing can get quite expensive if not covered under warranty. With modular phones, if the camera module stops working, then it’s easy to go to the store, buy just the camera module that you desire, and clip it in the skeleton, and voila, you have have a fully working phone again. Just throw away the broken module and you are set to go.
Modular phones will let you basically build on the basic template or frame. You will be able to attach whatever module you want and therefore make your phone more unique. I’ll admit I still have a Samsung Galaxy S5, and it is running very good. A root was recently discovered at the beginning of this year, after Verizon “locked” the bootloader (this is another topic in itself and I will not discuss it here much). Although I can say that my phone is customized, because it has a “custom” phone case and a custom ROM, it’s hardware is still stock. With a modular phone, if I want to blast my music, I can connect more speakers, or if I want to do some professional photography, maybe a module for a better camera. This is the future of mobile devices. The shape of the phone will transform according to the modules you are currently running:
Customized module layout – Google Ara
Smartphone vs Modular phone
The touchscreen smartphone has relatively been the same for the past 10 years. Since Apple came out with the Iphone, the basic idea of a smartphone has stayed the same. Although the technology and hardware have improved over the past decade, the basic big front touchscreen and a few buttons on the side with a camera on the back has been the default layout for almost all phones. Modular phones are attempting to change that. Introducing modules to the smartphone may encourage more creativity from module developers to create unique products. Imagine being able to change the music amp to a custom amp made by your favorite company, or custom speakers made by your favorite company (Harmon, wink wink). Imagine being able to clip on a finger scanning device, or another biometric scanner, on the back of your phone for added security. The module smart phone will allow us to collect, store, and utilize data in ways never before. I look forward to the possibilities of this design.
For more information regarding Google Ara, visit the website: Project Ara.
Are you excited about the modular phone? Do you like the design of Google’s Ara? What modules are you looking forward to?
I’ll admit that in some of the pictures, the Ara looks blocky and, for the lack of a better word, “tetris-piece” like. However, the modules should allow you to change the shape. A dynamic phone shell, that can be altered and rearranged like a transformer toy is pretty cool. I am excited to see it in person and play with it.