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Google is hoping to launch Ara early next year

Google is looking to revolutionize the smartphone industry with its Project Ara initiative. The program aims to provide a smartphone “endoskeleton” which can be configured with replaceable modules. If you’d like to upgrade your display, camera, processor, or even add a keyboard, your wish would be granted with a replacement module for each individual component.
 
"We want not just to create something that's custom, and not even just something that's unique, but actually something that's expressive so that people can use this as a canvas to tell a story," said Ara program head Paul Eremenko earlier this year. "So that you can set your phone down at dinner on the table next to you, and it becomes a topic of conversation for the first fifteen minutes of dinner."
 
According to Google, over 90,000 people applied to become a “scout” in the Ara beta program. Today, the company announced that it has selected 100 people to receive the phone, which will refine over the course of the next eight months. But perhaps the best news for those lucky 100 scouts is that Google will be providing the Ara phones for free.

 
This is a stark contrast to Google Glass, which costs “Explorers” $1,500 to secure.

Source: The Next Web



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Looks cool, don't see a market
By tayb on 7/3/2014 1:45:42 PM , Rating: 1
It sounded cool as a concept and looks cool as a prototype but it still isn't something I think very many people will buy. To gain the flexibility to swap parts you have to give up on price, weight, battery life, form factor, and performance. People swap phones every 12-24 months, why would someone make so many sacrifices to swap parts instead of phones?

Even if you swapped in all of the best parts available you would never be able to replicate the performance, price, battery life, form factor, and weight of a S5 or iPhone 5S.

I really wonder if this is something that people are actually demanding? No one has been asking for modular notebooks because the trade-offs aren't worth the benefits. Why wouldn't the same be true in the smartphone or tablet market?

In the end I really only think modular designs work if people tend to hang on to devices for years and years. Consumers just don't do that with phones. They don't want to do that with almost any consumer electronics, to be honest, but especially phones.




RE: Looks cool, don't see a market
By TheDoc9 on 7/3/2014 2:01:28 PM , Rating: 4
I'm interested in it. I'm sure there are others. Personally I'd like to get out of swapping phones every 12-24 months, it's annoying and it gets old.

I want a keyboard again, I want a faster processor and more ram. And I don't want to have to port apps to a new device or re-familiarize myself with the latest manufacturers consumer candy of the day.


By ShaolinSoccer on 7/3/2014 2:13:25 PM , Rating: 2
All I want is a phone identical to the Sony Xperia Play with the slide out game pad and the latest hardware. I could care less about a slide out keyboard considering how easy it is to type on the screen. But trying to play a game with the controls on the screen is absolutely frustrating. The phone also needs to be unlocked to be able to use on any carrier and with the latest CyanogenMod. It also doesn't need to be made by Sony. I don't need it to be Playstation compatible.


RE: Looks cool, don't see a market
By Reclaimer77 on 7/3/2014 4:24:07 PM , Rating: 2
I'm kind of surprised more people aren't on board with this. This phone design has the potential to disrupt the current carrier subsidy phone model that has a choke-hold on everyone.

Oh did I say disrupt? I mean blow it up completely.


By retrospooty on 7/3/2014 4:59:07 PM , Rating: 2
How is that? You still have to buy it and if you want to upgrade, buy the component. It's not like you cant get a Moto G or some other decent low end phone and end your subsidy right now... Or even just buy your high end phone outright.


By ritualm on 7/5/2014 1:19:15 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
I'm kind of surprised more people aren't on board with this. This phone design has the potential to disrupt the current carrier subsidy phone model that has a choke-hold on everyone.

Oh did I say disrupt? I mean blow it up completely.

Only for the most hardcore of users. The rest of us could care less.

After building my own PC boxes, using them, and troubleshooting them in the past decade, I bought an appliance of a laptop and treated that as my desktop - I had very little tolerance of things that either don't work at all or work "under ideal conditions". Project Ara, as geeky and nice as it seems, is going to belong under the "ideal conditions" part... in other words, it's fun to tinker with but highly frustrating to use in practice.

Also, what exactly makes you think this will disrupt the current carrier subsidy phone model? Project Ara does nothing to kill the system. I'd rather Google start selling their Nexus 5 successor for $200-300 unlocked off contract at Wal-Mart.


By retrospooty on 7/3/2014 3:00:28 PM , Rating: 2
"To gain the flexibility to swap parts you have to give up on price, weight, battery life, form factor, and performance"

Most of that is pretty minimal, but form factor is the big one. Phones today are so tightly packed to save space, you are giving up alot of precious space to allow for flexibility.

I agree, I just don't see a huge market for this. It seams like one of those things that sounds better on paper than it will work in the real world. We will have to see though, they may have some new tricks we weren't expecting.


RE: Looks cool, don't see a market
By Reclaimer77 on 7/3/2014 4:05:14 PM , Rating: 3
You're making a bunch of statements that aren't backed by anything. I see no reason for a modular phone to require one to "give up" on anything. I have to believe if what you're saying was true, the wouldn't be going forward with this concept. Clearly they have thought of a way around some of these limitations you've mentioned.

Google is thinking outside of the box here, maybe you should try doing the same.

quote:
I really wonder if this is something that people are actually demanding?


Who demanded multi-touch smartphones? Or the LCD monitor/TV? Or just..whatever.

quote:
In the end I really only think modular designs work if people tend to hang on to devices for years and years. Consumers just don't do that with phones.


I think you're missing the entire point. Of course people don't hold onto their phones for years and years (a lot do actually), because before you know it the phone is obsolete.

Which is the whole POINT of modular phones. You wouldn't have to buy a new phone, just some upgrades.

The one device you've left out is the personal computer. Which has essentially been "modular" for decades now. Smartphones are pretty much personal computers. All Ara does is bring that familiar concept to the smartphone.


RE: Looks cool, don't see a market
By atechfan on 7/3/2014 8:55:38 PM , Rating: 2
Only enthusiasts actually upgrade their PC as well. This would have a market among tinkerers, but probably not among the general consumer. You'd buy it maybe. I might, assuming I could install Windows Phone on it. But would the average Joe who goes to a cell phone kiosk at the mall and buys whatever the salesman tells him is the hot phone? I doubt it. I can see it being very popular among a niche, but hardly something to disrupt the carriers.

Getting sidetracked, my comment about installing Windows Phone got me thinking. Why doesn't MS release a Windows Phone ROM to flash Android phones with? Put out a free Windows Phone 8.1 ROM and I bet they'd get a lot of people willing to at least give it a try. If they don't like it, they could put Android back on it.


By Reclaimer77 on 7/3/2014 10:29:41 PM , Rating: 2
Judging from these pics, if you can figure out how to put a plug in a wall socket, you can probably assemble the modules of this phone. Upgrading a PC requires tools, knowledge, opening up the case etc etc. It can be intimidating to people, this phone idea, not so much.

quote:
Why doesn't MS release a Windows Phone ROM to flash Android phones with? Put out a free Windows Phone 8.1 ROM and I bet they'd get a lot of people willing to at least give it a try. If they don't like it, they could put Android back on it.


Are you high?


By retrospooty on 7/4/2014 1:10:41 AM , Rating: 2
"Why doesn't MS release a Windows Phone ROM to flash Android phones with? Put out a free Windows Phone 8.1 ROM and I bet they'd get a lot of people willing to at least give it a try."

It sounds good, and if it were there I would try it, but you arent aware of the incredible amount of work that goes into even a semi stable semi functional ROM. No one is doing it because its just not cost effective.


RE: Looks cool, don't see a market
By Manch on 7/5/2014 6:59:28 AM , Rating: 2
Think of it this way. So two people go to a phone kiosk at BB or wherever. The first one wants lots of memory, fastest proc available, hi res screen no kb and he wants to put it together himself. Kiosk worker hands him the parts. The next person, just wants a screen with a keyboard so she can txt all day long. Doesnt use apps much or anything else, just the usual gamut of messaging apps. She selects a low end proc, low mem, and a decent res screen with kb. Kiosk worker snaps it together for her like legos. Both consumers are happy. What's not to like?

Think about it from a manufactures perspective as well. They know the design limitations for each module. They dont need to worry about the rest of the phone, just design thier module. No vetting/testing a whole new phone. Also, if a phone is a flop they end up with massive stockpile of crap they have to now dump at a loss. The modules would be a much smaller cost to absorb if it didnt sell well.

As far as putting a dent in the power of the phone, sure it may take a hit. Fastest ones may be no better than a phone that came out a year ago. So what, The galaxy phones havent exactly improved leaps and bounds lately. It sure as hell wont hurt WP8 since it runs on lasts years hardware better than android runs on yet to be released hardware. Also peoples phones are getting to that fast enough point where quirks and weirdness in the OS arent looked over as easily because we expect now a more polished product.

I think this modular idea has some legs.


RE: Looks cool, don't see a market
By drycrust3 on 7/4/2014 2:56:36 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It sounded cool as a concept and looks cool as a prototype but it still isn't something I think very many people will buy.

Ah ha ... You've forgotten the golden rule of innovation: The biggest benefit of a new idea is something you hadn't thought of! This is exactly the problem with the Project Ara, we are thinking about this in terms of our current technology, we aren't thinking about this in terms of what it can do for us. For example, one example here is they say if we want to upgrade the keyboard then we can, but that is "current technology" thinking, randomly point at something around the rooom ... The TV ... a picture on the wall! What can this technology do for your TV? How about replacing the whole thing with a smartphone? This is the beauty of Project Ara: you can replace your TV with a smartphone! For example, you take off the small 4 inch screen and replace it with a 40 inch one, you take off the mobile RF unit and replace it with a combination digital TV tuner + WiFi one, take off the teeny weeny speaker and put in some decent ones, take out the solid state memory and install a decent hard drive and now you've got an Android powered TV that also records programs so you can record your favourite programs and watch them later, so now you and your friends can sit down and watch the Word Cup Football on TV (and your friends aren't even at your house).
What about the picture? Replace it with a smartphone! Real keyboard? Nope, don't need that, touch screen will do! Small screen? Nope, replace it with a 12 inch one. Powerful processor? Nope, a cheap one will do. Now download an "Art" app and you've got yourself a painting that changes the artwork according to your tastes and moods.
Or say your favourite manufacturer is threatened with an import ban because of some petty design patent issue. How can they get around this? Simple: sell the phone as a kitset and have the retail shop staff assemble the phone for you (or let the customer do it themselves if you want!). They can even legitimately put an "Assembled in the New Zealand" (or "USA" if you live there) sticker onto it.


By retrospooty on 7/4/2014 11:38:21 PM , Rating: 2
That's actually a really good point. Not that it's going to support screen sizes like that with this initial product, but it could scale to that later. Because of size constraints I don't really see this working out too great a phone. But apply the same logic to a tablet or a laptop and it's freaking amazing. That is where something like this would shine IMO.


By BillyBatson on 7/5/2014 2:44:35 AM , Rating: 2
I am very interested in this and I hope all future tech is user upgradeable like this.

quote:
Even if you swapped in all of the best parts available you would never be able to replicate the performance, price, battery life, form factor, and weight of a S5 or iPhone 5S.

Why not? I don't see why you wouldn't be able to match the performance. Price well maybe up front parts would cost more but when I can upgrade the CPU 3 times in 2 years that in itself is saving money over getting a whole new phone each of those times. Form factor? You yourself said you like the formfactor lol and it looks great to me and will only get better. Weight you have Ara there, for the first 2-4 years it could be a little heavier than a traditional smartphone but not enough to matter. Overall most of is want this. You can stick to the cheapy phones you can't upgrade.


Looks cool
By TheDoc9 on 7/3/2014 12:13:37 PM , Rating: 2
I can't remember if I signed up for this, I hope so! It would be really cool to beta test this :)




Please no
By HammerStrike on 7/3/2014 12:20:49 PM , Rating: 2
"So that you can set your phone down at dinner on the table next to you, and it becomes a topic of conversation for the first fifteen minutes of dinner."

I get the corporate buzz speak, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Whether you prefer a physical or virtual keyboard, or a 8MP or 13MP sensor on your camera, is not that defining. Hopefully the person owning the phone is interesting enough to fill 15 minutes of conversation with something of actual importance. If not, I'm not sure the phone will make the dinner party worthwhile.




But, but, but...
By Akrovah on 7/3/2014 2:21:21 PM , Rating: 2
But can I get a module with a Windows Phone ROM?




Can't wait
By bug77 on 7/6/2014 12:36:10 PM , Rating: 2
If nothing else, at least I can have a phone configured the way I want it, not the way the manufacturer cares to configure.




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