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Motorola to work on a modular hardware smartphone system

by Mark Tyson on 29 October 2013, 12:15

Tags: Motorola (NYSE:MSI), PC

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As PC enthusiasts we don’t need to be told of the benefits of modularity, of an open platform where users can change their hardware bits and pieces to make or customise something that works great for their individual needs. The smartphone/tablet industries have largely avoided any kind of modularity though; iconic Apple and Google hardware don’t even enable users to pack a spare battery or to slot in a microSD card... However it seems like Motorola and Phonebloks are going to work together to make a smartphone that is “modular, open, customizable, and made for the entire world”.

The official Motorola Blog says that Motorola has been working on ‘Project Ara’ for over a year and recently met with Dave Hakkens, the creator of Phonebloks. Both companies want to make this modular system work and the engineering resources of Motorola and the almost million-strong community supporting Phonebloks will work together to give this project a great start. From now on, says Motorola, its development work on Project Ara will be in the open and it will be tailored and refined with help of the Phonebloks community. A Module Developer’s Kit (MDK) containing all module developers need to know will be released this winter.

Motorola endoskeleton and modules

The design of the Project Ara smartphone consists of an endoskeleton (endo) and modules. The ‘endo’ is the chassis and the modules can be anything from a processor, display, extra battery, extra sensors, telephoto portrait camera – the beauty is that everything is open to possibilities. It all looks very positive and fun and open to tinkering and real customisation – not just different coloured shells like we are used to with smartphones.

Phonebloks concept design

Motorola’s hardware designs look a lot more appealing than the grey Lego Phonebloks efforts we had seen previously. The tile-like appearance looks like it would compliment Windows Phone perfectly but since Google own Motorola these will probably be Android only devices, at least initially.

Motorola promises “there will be a lot more coming from us in the next few months,” so it’s another wait and see development. Let’s hope this product can get to market sooner rather than later.

HEXUS Forums :: 25 Comments

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Well this is certainly interesting. I saw the project and didnt see anything coming of it, someone like motorola behind it and it could have a chance if its executed well.
Cool concept but I bet it'll be very expensive compared to off the shelf options.
I think market traction could be quite difficult to achieve when the majority is used to purchasing phones on contract, instead of outright.
I'll be surprised if they can get it working well but really like the idea. Imagine being able to remove the camera and microSD card slot and replace with an extra battery when travelling, or sticking a bigger storage block on when space gets tight. Biggest issues will be drivers and mechanics (don't want your CPU block falling out in the middle of a call!).
“Motorola’s hardware designs look a lot like the Phonebloks efforts we had seen previously, because they probably stole the idea directly, and left the original designer to rot.”