Google might have sold off Motorola to Lenovo, but is keeping all those patents and research teams close to Mountain View. Motorola’s R&D initially unveiled a concept called “Ara”, the first modular smartphone that has the potential to totally change the way we look at, and buy smartphones. The concept is pretty simple, as it follows the typical “Build you own PC” method, which grants you the flexibility of choice in interesting permutations and combinations. Ara now belongs to Google, and naturally, we are seeing some momentum here, with them announcing a Modular Development Kit, using which hardware manufacturers or “Module Developers” can create different modules that will eventually turn up on your own custom Ara phone.
The released MDK throws light on how the whole modular concept could work, with carefully detailed module specifications so that developers could take advantage of it. Google calls the base part of the Ara Phone “Endo”, a short form of Endoskeleton, which will support all the modules. There will be two sides, Front and the Back, where modules can be fixed. The front will naturally have the user interaction parts while the back will have the actual functions that one would want, which will totally decide what kind of a phone you have.
There are going to be three types of Endos, for three typical sizes which users are used to. The “Large” Endo is scheduled for a future release, but if you are a module developers, the Mini and the Medium are ready to go on the MDK. The base platform will have its own chip to power the modules and will run Android as its operating system. With the MDK, the developers will be able to make modules with respect to the different sizes and functions that the Endo mandates. For example, Google showcases a Thermal imaging module on the back of the phone, sitting on a raised hump. This is a specialty module that will be required by experts in a particular, and technically becomes a phone that currently does not exist. These kinds of scenarios are where Google might want to make a difference in, unlike the mass market agenda that we could have been led to believe before.
But the real question here is, will modularity be the future of Smartphone computing? One part of us longs for the infinite levels of customization while the other part of us is wary of all the effort that one might need to take. While we hope the MDK makes it easier, what are your thoughts on the Project Ara and its modular concept? Convey your thoughts in the comments section below.
Download the Project Ara MDK here