Motorola has announced that its new research and development team, called Project Ara, is developing an "open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones". In other words, it wants your phone to come in bits.
The guys at Moto—who have been working with Phonebloks—claim that they "want to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software." Ambitious. Clearly, Google's influence is showing. But, more seriously, the idea is to create a third-party developer ecosystem for hardware, which would presumably make it easier for people to chip in to the sector: producing a camera here, say, or a GPS module there. Companies could play to their strengths, deliver straight to consumers, but not have to make an entire phone.
In turn, that could make for more versatile, personalized phones, with the user getting to decide what they need and don't; what their phone can and can't do, how it looks and how long it lasts. And, perhaps most important, how much it costs. It is, of course, an idea that's been had before, but never really come to fruition, largely because modular designs have been too bulky in the past.
Perhaps, Motorola now thinks we're at a point where that's no longer the case. Indeed, it's new design—made up of what it calls an endoskeleton and modules—at least looks fairly sleek. The team behind it explains:
The endo is the structural frame that holds all the modules in place. A module can be anything, from a new application processor to a new display or keyboard, an extra battery, a pulse oximeter—or something not yet thought of!
Of course, it's not clear when anything will actually come of this, but it looks like one of the more fully formed concept ideas to come out of a phone company. Maybe, just maybe, your phone may yet be modular. What do you think? [Motorola]