The First Modular Smartphone: The Google Ara

By Dia Ascenzi

As wonderful and endlessly useful as smartphones are, they haven’t seemed to evolve much in the past few years. Sure, new apps pop up every day, and minor tweaks and features get added to the mix with nearly every new smartphone model, but no huge step into the future of smartphone technology has happened in quite some time. Until now, it seems. Google is planning to launch the Google Ara in 2017, and it’s like nothing you’ve seen before in a smartphone.

The Ara is a truly revolutionary idea in what we know smartphones to be. It is the epitome of technology meets engineering. It is a modular phone that, at its most basic components, is just a phone. What makes it different is that it can be modded to your specific preferences. The Ara has ports in which you can insert any number of interchangeable parts to customize your smartphone in more than just its appearance. You can add a better camera, a better speaker, an extra speaker, and just about anything else that interested developers may come up with. And there are a ton of interested developers. Panasonic, Wistron, E-Ink, Toshiba, Harman, Samsung, Sony Pictures, and even some health companies are thinking about designing modules for the Ara.

Project Ara is the brainchild of Google, and will be the first smartphone Google will make themselves. The idea was to make a phone with more staying power than smartphones today. Instead of having to buy a new phone every time you want access to the newest technology, like that better camera or better battery that the newest Apple smartphone may have, you can keep your phone, and just add the newest, nicest modules out there.

Originally, the goal of the Ara was to have a totally modular phone. That would mean that the smartphone’s CPU, antenna, and everything else that makes your phone tick, would be customizable. This was a huge tease for many technology lovers, and for that reason, even got a somewhat negative review from the creator of a similar concept, Phonebloks. But as Project Ara progressed, the team realized that this was a little too much to go for. According to Ara, many users don’t want to waste time thinking about the processor or RAM in their phone. They would rather take the developer’s word for it, and worry about the simpler things, like their camera quality and what fun things they can do on their shiny new smartphone.

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