Monday, July 7, 2014

Interesting Discussions about Google's Project Ara

Google had showed Demo for the prototype of "Project Ara", a modular phone system at Google I/O 2014.

The module phone concept was initially proposed by Dave Hakkens as phonebloks. And, Motorola announced about "project ara" in October 2013.

Google retained the "Project Ara" Team of Motorola, even after Lenovo acquired Motorola.

Previously many people were saying that creating modular phone is impossible. Google's this demo proved them wrong.

Watch the Project Ara Demo in the below video.

Though Google proved the possibility of modular phones technically, many people (through social media discussions, eg.1, eg.2 ) are saying that it is not practically useful.

What do you think about the future of Modular Phones ? You can share your thoughts through the comments.

Find below some interesting and thought-provoking comments in various social media discussions about project ara.

One of the bravest ideas. There is DSLR/M from Ricoh with a modular design, but it had little success. With Google's support modular design may become reality.

A big problem I think everyone can agree on is, there is so much needless junk "out there" in the realm of old power cords for laptops and mobile phone. Why hasn't the various industries standardized a single power cord for all mobile phone, regardless of make? Every mobile phone currently could be run off a mini-USB-to-AC adapter, if the powers that be would get together.
A modular phone is very much in line with a lot of old science fiction--think "Blade Runner"

all you people think this means youll never need to purchase an entire new phone ever again. guess what, the chassis will change, the size will change, the technology and connections will all change.
Adding in complexity where it isn't needed. More parts to fail. It's a cool engineering exercise but I don't see this becoming a thing.

This is a techie dream.

Do people not get that the average consumer does not want to have to make technical decisions for the hardware that they purchase? Imagine a parent having to decide what resolution screen they want, or how much RAM they want their phone to have.

Consumers, as a whole, like to buy something that is sexy, well marketed, and has the "hard" decisions made for them (see: Apple.) While this modular phone looks really cool, it is hardly any of those things.
There was a kickstarter project a while ago that got some interesting funding for such idea. However, I don't see much future in it as in many aspects it is not viable. Imagine how much more expensive a phone would be to modularise all its parts, create connectors and bus, packing and logistics for separate parts etc.

We are getting into the age of a single ship, with all components such as GPS, Wifi, GSM, and everything else being embedded into a single chip and not the other way around.

There may be a niche market for power users and enthusiasts of modules but it wont get to main stream.
The only way it will extend past the techie crowd (heh, IT crowd), is if it becomes a fashion trend.

IF it becomes a fashion trend of who has the prettiest, best modules then it has a very high schance of succeeding. If it doesn't than its doomed.
I think that this is cool idea but I still believe this concept will result in far too many trade-offs. Even if this concept is perfected the phones will never be able to achieve the same performance, reliability, form factor, battery life, and price of a phone from Samsung or Apple. You'll sacrifice on almost every category for the ability swap out chips. Not worth it to me and I doubt it will be worth it to consumers. People replace their phones far too often.

I hope they continue forward with this project because I do see some usefulness in the tablet market
Won't this have the same basic problem that laptops and desktops have when it comes to modularity? Sure, you have the choice of installing a Celeron, Pentium, Core i3, i5, i7 as long as it's within a generation or two and supported by the motherboard and compatible with the socket. However, as technology progresses, buses get faster, interfaces need to be changed and redesigned, and now you have to buy a completely new motherboard and new CPU when it comes time to upgrade.

Even if this project gets off the ground, it's going to have the same problem. Oh, sorry, this brand new phone CPU module that has 2x the performance at half the power usage is not compatible with your phone's module system, please upgrade...
I think this is a classic case of everyone jumping on the bandwagon of something new that promises to do something you wish you could do today but cannot.

A modular phone would far more complicated to manufacture. To make all those components removable you must have a standard of how they are connected to each other. And this standard would have to be upgraded.

Look at PC hard-drives for example. They went from IDE to ATA33 to ATA66 to ATA133 to SATA and so on. Sure some are back and forward compatible but if you want to get the higher speed you must upgrade the motherboard or get a pluging controller.

Meanwhile only some will complain that their desktop is getting boulky and almost no one will complain about the weight...but for a phone everyone would.

That is why this is a pipe dream.

Phones need to be small, powerful and efficient. This is achieved through component integration.

Is it possible to make a modular phone that is as powerful or as efficient or as small as one which has integrated components? Sure, but you only get to pick one or two, not all 3.


I am not anti-progress. All I am saying is this is a meaningless gimmick that is sensationalized in an attempt to squeeze more money out of people. Sort of how NASA puts out a picture of a "craft" that they do not know how it would work, what would power it, or how to even make it. But, here it is so get excited about space exploration... "STAR TREK IS NIGH!" It is all just a pile of bullshit folks and it is passing for truth because education is so poor.

Major kudos to Google for going ahead with this as if it's going to actually pan out.

Obviously none of us can say for sure whether it's going to actually work out or not… I would personally say it most likely won't. However the only way anything has it's best shot at working is if you assume it will work. That's the right attitude.

This is R&D at it's finest. Who know's what we'll get from this project honestly. It might be a complete dead end, it might be a complete success… or we could get other technologies that could get used elsewhere in our phones.

Really exciting project to follow
Ara is just a R&D project. Maybe it will bring some useful knowledge that will be later integrated into real devices - but I don't think it will bring the oh-my-god-so-modular phone to the market. I'm more excited about projects like Neo900 - this is how "modularity" in mobile devices should be achieved. Plus the solution with two PCBs gives hope for even more "modularity" in future, with potential partial updates.
Size matters. Desktop PCs are easy to make modular (unless you want an iMac). Laptops are harder, and besides removable batteries, only a few had any modular components (like a DVD drive swappable for an extra battery). Phones are much more space-constrained. Every millimeter counts, and modularity takes up quite a bit of space at that scale, because each part needs to be enclosed, securely attach to the others, etc.

In short, a modular phone is possible, but the trade-offs will be severe, and you'll be able to pick one or two things (e.g. speed, battery life, extra features, small size, etc.) but not all at the same time. And the prices won't be good, because manufacturer(s) will lose economies of scale: it'll be hard to compete with Apple and Samsung making millions and tens of millions of identical units.
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