Project Ara – a modular phone designed exclusively for 6 billion people


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A 3D printable phone that could replace feature phones and basic phones? Is a modular, open hardware ecosystem the way to go to give billions of people mobile internet access worldwide?

Project Ara modular phones

You have probably heard about the crazy concept of creating modular mobile phones. Over the years there has been many attempts at creating customizable phones where you can customize the external components of the phone. In 2013, a concept called Phonebloks appeared, proposing customization of the internal components – the hardware. Project Ara is Googles’/Motorolas’ attempt of creating a modular phone for the masses.

This is very ambitions and exciting. In 2013, smartphones finally outsold feature phones, according to Gartner. I think it will probably take at least 5 years or more until feature phones are down to 10-20% market share. In countries like India and Indonesia there is a long delay in the sale of new phones, and there is a huge market for second hand phones. We are seeing Android phones in these market with cheap, basic hardware at around 40$. Although I think the idea of modular phones is absolutely great and I hope it will succeed, I think it will be challenging to compete with these cheap, ready made phones.

Pros

  • Environmentally friendly. We can reuse components instead of tossing away the entire phone.
  • The user can choose only the components that she wants to use, thus making the phone cheaper.
  • More customization and personalization.
  • It’s open, so you can pick and choose components from different vendors.

Cons

  • It might not be possible. There are lots of technical constraints, the phone would be huge.
  • It might be hard for users to deal with assembly of the phones. Plus, it might be hard to create hardware that is solid and high quality.
  • Challenging to keep the prices low.

What do you think?

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