It is predicted that 1.8bn phones will be sold this year, and that 1.5bn will be thrown away, or fall into permanent disuse. For a long time, discarded mobile phones has represented a large and growing stream of waste but one handset maker hopes to turn all that waste into gold with its revolutionary idea that has left many experts wondering how this will influence the rapidly growing phone industry.
Google-owned phone firm Motorola has announced a new project that could allow individual components of smartphones to be replaced as part of a modular, build-your-own-device smartphone project named Ara.
The new project, Ara, would allow users to upgrade individual components of their devices without having to buy a new handset every other year. They would be able to replace elements such as the camera, processor, storage or even WiFi hardware by simply removing one “block” of their phone and inserting another.
Google says the goal is simple: to “give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it’s made of, how much it costs, and how long you’ll keep it,” according to a blog post.
The phones will be built around an “endoskeleton,” which will provide the basic frame. Then, a user could snap in different modules.
The project intends to allow anybody to create any kind of module they desire, as long as it fits into the Ara base “endoskeleton”, which connects all the other components together.
“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,” said Motorola.
Google has been working on the project for over a year, and had recently taken inspiration from Phonebloks, the modular smartphone concept which garnered widespread attention in September.
“We want to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines,” Motorola said the post.
While only a concept at the moment, Motorola plans to begin shipping an alpha release of the Project Ara developer kit over the winter.