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Project Ara: Inside Google's Modular Smartphones

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the one-piece-at-a-time dept.

Google 70

harrymcc writes "Google is releasing more details on Project Ara, its effort — originally spearheaded by Motorola — to reinvent the smartphone in a form made up of hot-swappable modules that consumers can configure as they choose, then upgrade later as new technologies emerge. Google is aiming to release about a year from now."

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70 comments

Hot-swappable? (3, Interesting)

14erCleaner (745600) | about 2 months ago | (#46353009)

Because you could upgrade your phone without interrupting the current call?

Re: Hot-swappable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46353131)

Hold on, I need to plug-in the satlink.

Re: Hot-swappable? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46353191)

Hold on, I need to plug-in the satlink.

Sorry, satlink module disabled: please reattach Google Ads module.

Re: Hot-swappable? (4, Interesting)

DeTech (2589785) | about 2 months ago | (#46353297)

You Jest, but a Iridium module could be a god-sent to hikers or captains.

Re: Hot-swappable? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 months ago | (#46357357)

Why a module though? And why hot-swappable? I can't imagine the module having a whole lot of price advantage. I'd imagine most of the price comes from the hardware specific to satphone capabilities, not the rest of the phone, so you'd be saving money on the least expensive part.

As far as hot-swappable, why the hell would anyone suddenly need to switch over to satphone without turning off the phone? Sea-captains in the middle of really hot phone sex as they head out to sea?

Re:Hot-swappable? (2)

mjwx (966435) | about 2 months ago | (#46353203)

Because you could upgrade your phone without interrupting the current call?

But I still wouldn't bet that the carrier doesn't drop the call before you finish swapping the components.

Re:Hot-swappable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46354127)

Because you could upgrade your phone without interrupting the current call?

But I still wouldn't bet that the carrier doesn't drop the call before you finish swapping the components.

These devices can make phone calls? I just thought they did skype and apps.

This computer is NEVER OBSOLETE! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46353083)

This computer is NEVER OBSOLETE!

They can call them ephones.

Re:This computer is NEVER OBSOLETE! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46353389)

max dn exceeded...

A bit ugly, (3, Interesting)

mjwx (966435) | about 2 months ago | (#46353227)

From the pics in the article, it's pretty fugly... However I'd still buy one but it would be the first phone I've owned that I'd buy a case for.

Re:A bit ugly, (-1, Offtopic)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 2 months ago | (#46353347)

I disagree with your sig -1.

Re:A bit ugly, (1, Informative)

stephenmac7 (2700151) | about 2 months ago | (#46354245)

Just because you don't like his signature doesn't mean his comment is bad. For the record, I like his signature.

Re:A bit ugly, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46355117)

The comment is bad because it's beautiful.

Re:A bit ugly, (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 2 months ago | (#46356689)

Hater

Re:A bit ugly, (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 2 months ago | (#46364023)

Hater

You see, calling someone a "hater" is nothing but juvenile name calling and because you resorted to calling them a name rather than debunking his point, you've demonstrated that you don't have an argument good enough to debunk the GP's point.

And again, name calling using "hater" instead of a more original and comical name again demonstrates you also have no creativity.

Sadly, this entire argument does not fit into the 120 character ./ sig.

Re:A bit ugly, (2)

dave420 (699308) | about 2 months ago | (#46355755)

That's a pre-pre-pre-production prototype. The final product is at least a year off.

Re:A bit ugly, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46356015)

Yes,the final version would be slightly less ugly except they won't ever ship it. Google loves to talk about shit their gonna do.

Re:A bit ugly, (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 months ago | (#46357387)

I'm confused as to why aesthetics are such a big deal about phones. You look at the screen, not the back of the phone, right?

This type of tech could help against spying (2)

roman_mir (125474) | about 2 months ago | (#46353251)

I think this type of technology can be used to curtail government spying and also it can be a fun way to build your own phone to your own specifications the way people build their computers from parts.

If the phone building blocks only have to implement specified interfaces and do not have to be provided by any specific vendor, it could become possible finally to have actually secure phones, where a building block could be inserted to pre-process and encrypt the signal in a 'sandbox' in a way that would make it impossible for the network provider to snoop on your communications.

I can even see the strongest encryption that is possible used made available with this technology: one time encryption pads. How about this for a business idea: build and sell pairs of one time encryption pads and encryption modules, which would allow 2 (or more) individuals to encrypt their communications with a pre-made list of keys that can be shared beforehand. In fact a modular design can make it possible to have individual one time encryption pads to be used for different phone numbers (or some form of identifier that is first shared over the open network and then switches to the correct encryption pad once the session is established).

Fuck the NSA, this can really fuck up their entire snooping operation.

Re:This type of tech could help against spying (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46353317)

The spying is on the carrier side, if you want it encrypt (or rather, scramble) the voice then you can do that with current phones. This changes nothing.

Re:This type of tech could help against spying (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 months ago | (#46354725)

Yes, nothing like owning a device where any of several modules can be easily swapped out for a visually identical one with additional monitoring built in, to make spying on you harder...

Re:This type of tech could help against spying (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 2 months ago | (#46358343)

If they have physical access to your phone, you are in trouble one way or another, you definitely shouldn't let anybody get that access. At least with phones made out of blocks, you can probably detect the change easier and actually remove the offending part.

With the phones as they are currently you can't even know if something was changed. I mean adding / replacing a chip, adding some tiny piece of hardware is not out of question for a large organisation, how often do people check what is inside their phones today? With phones made out of blocks, it would be much easier to do so if you cared.

How much you wanna bet (4, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | about 2 months ago | (#46353291)

How much do you want to bet they end up like most "upgradeable" PCs -- never touched from day of purchase until they hit the landfill or the recycling company.

Re:How much you wanna bet (1)

winnitude (1352731) | about 2 months ago | (#46353395)

I think this is a good point - it seems that much of the technology industry is heading away from modularity, for example, Apple laptops, because it permits a smaller and more efficient product. I don't doubt that Google will create a useful and successful ecosystem here, but it's hard to see it completely dominating the smartphone industry in the short term.

Re:How much you wanna bet (4, Informative)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 months ago | (#46353863)

How much do you want to bet they end up like most "upgradeable" PCs -- never touched from day of purchase until they hit the landfill or the recycling company.

Most of them will. However, my current desktop has gone through a motherboard swap, CPU upgrade, 2 graphics cards swaps, several HDD upgrades, added RAM, PSU swap, and a new case (technically, the only original component is 2 of the current 4 sticks of RAM, the Wifi card, and one of the HDDs).

Most people probably won't use the modularity much, if at all. But some people will, and those people who do can benefit from it tremendously.

Re:How much you wanna bet (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | about 2 months ago | (#46359931)

That reminds me of the old saying...

"They just don't make things as well as they did in the old days. I still have my grandfather's hammer/axe. I've changed the head three times and the handle four times, but it's still fine."

Re:How much you wanna bet (5, Insightful)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 2 months ago | (#46355479)

However, the industry itself only really exists because of that modularity. Small vendors being able to assemble niche systems from modular components, without having to do high-end electrical engineering and manufacturing.

Modular "phones" won't be modified by more than a fraction of the most nerdish end-users, but they will be a boon to other device makers. Companies are already using cellphone and tablet parts as cheap, standardised, easy-to-design-for control systems and/or displays for their products. Likewise, companies are making niche products that plug into a standard cellphone, rather than require their own computer/display/battery/etc.

With modularity, that ability increases exponentially.

Re:How much you wanna bet (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 months ago | (#46357417)

Good point, but aren't phones already useful in that regard? I can connect my phone via bluetooth, tethering, or USB to anything I could think of needing cell phone capabilities temporarily.

Re:How much you wanna bet (3, Informative)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | about 2 months ago | (#46356011)

To be fair, a PC from 2009, like an Athlon II, can be indistinguishable from a 2014 Core i3 when you're running, say, Windows, Office and Firefox. By comparison, an ARM processor from 2009, like the one in an iPhone 3GS or Motorola Milestone, is frustratingly slow even to browse simple websites. Pit against a Nexus 5 to have an idea of how much faster the pace of phone processing power is happening at than tradicional x86 right now.

Also, I'm pretty satisfied with my Nexus 4, except for heat and battery life. If I could exchange its processor for a quad-core cortex A7 like the one inside a Moto G (the damn thing lasts over 5 days with light use), I'd be happy to do so.

Re:How much you wanna bet (1)

bammmmm (3498549) | about 2 months ago | (#46363907)

It's not just upgradeable, it's a custom build, even if it never changes after the initial choices.

As someone that had a 486... (5, Interesting)

HockeyPuck (141947) | about 2 months ago | (#46353333)

I do remember upgrading CPUs from 486sx to dx to adding in a 66mhz overclocking chip etc...

However, it wasn't very long before upgrading a cpu meant buying a new motherboard.

A phone on the other hand... if you want it to be small and lightweight with no bulky connectors... it won't be field upgradable. Look at ultrabooks with their soldered on ram and SSD modules vs a W series Lenovo with dual expansion bays...

I also seem to recall at the S5 launch that the audience applauded the phone being dust and waterproof. Not sure how you can do this with all sorts of connectors.

Though I do applaud them for trying and maybe something good will come out of it.

Re:As someone that had a 486... (4, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | about 2 months ago | (#46353481)

For this to take off, it has to offer more than just upgradable specs... because people generally buy what they can at purchase and phones are at a place now where computers were at around 2003-4, speed gains still to be had but the majorly common tasks no longer benefitted from upgrading the bleeding edge hardware as much because the old stuff didn't feel quite so anemic anymore.

That means modules with hardware that adds capabilities and not just speed. Problem is that, as seen in the console market, most apps don't cater to what can be connect but what is connected by default.

Google could carve out a definite niche with this, but I'm not really seeing it as a marketshare dominator.

Re:As someone that had a 486... (3, Interesting)

HockeyPuck (141947) | about 2 months ago | (#46353497)

you could get companies to build peripherals for them... Google doesn't make the addons, someone else does...

A set of Carl Zeiss lenses for your smart phone?

Re:As someone that had a 486... (2)

The Rizz (1319) | about 2 months ago | (#46354163)

That means modules with hardware that adds capabilities and not just speed. Problem is that, as seen in the console market, most apps don't cater to what can be connect but what is connected by default.

The difference is that you've started buying into the "phone = console" mentality, when it should really be "phone = PC". Yes, on consoles it's typically programmed for the base hardware because the console is hard to add any hardware to, and current phones are quite similar. These new modular types of phones would be much closer to PCs - hardware is easy to add and doesn't require the manufacturer's OK to do so.

Re:As someone that had a 486... (2)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 2 months ago | (#46355515)

Consoles used to have expansion slots and the cartridge slot could be used as one too.
The expansions, if any, sucked for market reasons mainly : if only a small subset of your users have one, few developers will make games for them, leading to low consumer adoption in a nice vicious circle. The most successful expansion was probably the Sega-CD, which is quite telling. Some like Nintendo 64 memory upgrade only had a handful of games, or were hilarious failures (Jaguar CD, DD64). The Saturn had a small niche of 2D fighting games using a RAM increase.

Similar failure happened to improved hardware like NEC Turbografx and Atari STE, CPC plus (home computers) where no games used the additional abilities.

I agree though that phones should be thought of as PC instead of consoles, and stuff replacing or changing the Wifi, 4G, camera, additional storage should work. Missing though from the phones and ARM hardware in general is the standard BIOS or UEFI and way of booting, which ultimately makes the PC so great and entirely modular.

Re:As someone that had a 486... (2)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 2 months ago | (#46353687)

I do remember upgrading CPUs from 486sx to dx to adding in a 66mhz overclocking chip etc... However, it wasn't very long before upgrading a cpu meant buying a new motherboard.

It did back then too, if you wanted a Pentium.

Re:As someone that had a 486... (1)

The Rizz (1319) | about 2 months ago | (#46354109)

I do remember upgrading CPUs from 486sx to dx to adding in a 66mhz overclocking chip etc...

However, it wasn't very long before upgrading a cpu meant buying a new motherboard.

It did back then too, if you wanted a Pentium.

Actually, they made Pentium chips that would fit onto 486 motherboards [wikipedia.org].

Re:As someone that had a 486... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 2 months ago | (#46354251)

Yeah, I remembered that after I posted. However, they had poor performance and were really expensive, so I'm going to pretend they didn't count.

Re:As someone that had a 486... (0)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 2 months ago | (#46355545)

I remember wanting one badly for an outdated old PC I was given, but it's really like they don't exist anyway. It's only recently that I learnt about the actual performance, they really sucked. Afterall when run on a 32bit 25MHz or 33MHz FSB, these CPUs get only one fourth of the external bandwith to L2 cache and memory they expect. It was an abject rip off! Worse than a DX4. Similar to Pentium 4 + sdram or Pentium 133, 150 etc. sold without L2, but priced like high end stuff.

Re:As someone that had a 486... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46355371)

I also seem to recall at the S5 launch that the audience applauded the phone being dust and waterproof. Not sure how you can do this with all sorts of connectors.

It's easy, the first time you open it you void the guarantee.

First! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46353365)

I put my phone together and used it to comment here before anyone else!

Cool, but possibly not mass market (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 2 months ago | (#46353455)

There will be at a minimum a niche market for this build to your own specs customized phone/computer/music player/camera.

Nerds, criminals, and the ultra rich perhaps....but mainstream acceptance and profitability are question marks.

R & D costs on a mass market phone are relatively easy to recapture with millions of identical units sold, and as fascinating as these are, I suspect their dissimilarity will lead to higher consumer cost.

Re:Cool, but possibly not mass market (5, Insightful)

The Rizz (1319) | about 2 months ago | (#46353569)

R & D costs on a mass market phone are relatively easy to recapture with millions of identical units sold, and as fascinating as these are, I suspect their dissimilarity will lead to higher consumer cost.

You're missing the point; the idea here is to make the components mass marketed, rather than have it be the entire phone. Right now if you buy a phone from Apple, you get an Apple camera built into the Apple circuit board. The idea here is that Nikon mass-markets the cameras, and you plug it into your Motorola processor with a Lenovo battery and a Linksys broadband module. Don't like those brands? Pick whoever you want, in what combination you want. There will be pre-configured package deals, yes. But the fact that you can swap them out afterwards is the idea.

The point is that while the base phone may cost more, the modules will be cheaper (due to competition), and you can choose what quality level you want on each. And, instead if having to throw away your whole phone to replace/upgrade the camera/processor/antenna/whatever, you just buy the new module and the rest of your phone stays the same. So, more up-front cost, but less long-term cost.

Re:Cool, but possibly not mass market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46353691)

I'd mod this up, but I can't.

Re:Cool, but possibly not mass market (1)

SpzToid (869795) | about 2 months ago | (#46354189)

Jolla announced something similar quite awhile back called 'the other half', but haven't delivered anything substantial yet. Still, I'd argue they are a player in this space too, have been doing it for awhile also, and most of those folks are former Nokians, so they know hardware and also how to integrate it at the OS level.

http://www.jollatides.com/2014... [jollatides.com]

While I said Jolla hasn't delivered anything substantial yet, that is actually a very arguable judgement call I'd rather not get into. Still, I would like to point out that Jolla has articulated a developer strategy with the developer's SDK, made it available already, and have released some hardware modules for purchase already, (which is substantial really, relative to today's news of GOOG's projected plans for the future, as GOOG does their typical skillful technology marketing hype, this time of their recent hiring of some former DARPA folks).

OK, it is eye-candy, but if you care to look at some of the current demos of the Jolla 'other half' working in-sync with their OS Sailfish, you can see how pairing one with the other can influence of the current OS color scheme, for example. Sure Jolla also is also speaking of the future with their technology in their promos just like GOOG, but at least they actually offer something today you can buy.

http://jolla.com/the-other-hal... [jolla.com]

That is the dream, and the point of failure (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 months ago | (#46354663)

The idea here is that Nikon mass-markets the cameras, and you plug it into your Motorola processor with a Lenovo battery and a Linksys broadband module.

And you have a Total Mess. Because most of it kind of works, but the drivers for the cameras are a bit out of date or not compatible with the system version you need for the battery....

What you outlined is a dream - but not a dream for consumers. Yes in the abstract it sounds great but the reality as I and everyone else bore witness too in the PC era, is that the real life result is a mostly functional mess that needs constant upgrade or maintenance to keep working.

We are moving away from the PC era as we know it because real people, who just want to do stuff, do NOT want to be jiggering bits of things together like someone stranded on an island with boat wrecks to assemble a raft out of.

There's probably enough of a niche market that the device might survive... but I'm really dubious we're going to see a Nikon Camera module, as much as they wish it would be so. More like we'll see several camera modules from companies you've never heard of and cannot announce, and the rest of the components will be the same...

The main thing that might keep this effort afloat is if they come out of the gate with Steampunk modules. Then I'm in.

Re:That is the dream, and the point of failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46355589)

And the producer of the camera (or any other discrete component) can't be responsible for drivers instead of the OS why?

Oh, they are (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 months ago | (#46359485)

And the producer of the camera (or any other discrete component) can't be responsible for drivers instead of the OS why?

They are - just as they were in the PC era.

And it will work out just as well.

This has all happened before, and will all happen again. Not just a TV show tagline, it's the tech industry in a nutshell.

Re:Oh, they are (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46367431)

this is actually the truth of how it will all go down. zero reason for thinking it will be better supported than pc's (which cost a lot more)... Even now drivers and driver interop is a constant headache..

Re:That is the dream, and the point of failure (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 2 months ago | (#46358779)

Thanks for telling me what I don't want.

I look forward to many more years of manufacturers giving me what I actually "want", rather than what I think I want, even though for some reason I still think I want what I originally said I wanted. But I'm probably dippy like that! I could swear what I want is a decent battery life, largish screen, fast CPU and memory, removable storage, and a keyboard, and I'm not sure why I wouldn't want that, but as I understand it I'm wrong, and what I actually "want" is a phone that's super-thin, has inadequate storage, and has a battery life of a few hours.

Re:That is the dream, and the point of failure (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 months ago | (#46359437)

I'm just telling you what you will GET, not what you WANT.

In reality we WANT many things we cannot GET. That is life.

Re:Cool, but possibly not mass market (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46355733)

No, you're missing the point - that's not the same economy of scale as an entire phone is, so they will be much more expensive to build and buy. Each component will have a markup on top, and an additional distribution cost. It's a fundamentally stupid idea, sorry. And the dream relies on a universal bus interconnect which is going to be out of date before your contract runs out.

Re:Cool, but possibly not mass market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46359709)

R & D costs on a mass market phone are relatively easy to recapture with millions of identical units sold, and as fascinating as these are, I suspect their dissimilarity will lead to higher consumer cost.

You're missing the point; the idea here is to make the components mass marketed, rather than have it be the entire phone.

A mass market for components won't happen. All-in-one phones will always be cheaper, smaller and more rugged for the same functionality, and "good enough" for 90% of users. Modular smart phones will only ever be a niche market.

Mobile ITX (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46353793)

Kinda like Mobile ITX?

Will this get us the phone that becomes a laptop? (2)

swb (14022) | about 2 months ago | (#46354145)

...or a tablet or a desktop or a smartphone and the use of its peripherals, depending on what I plug it into?

Or does this just get me the a smartphone that sends me in a constant search for drivers and debugging why my Nikon camera module causes my Linksys RF module to crap out?

I'm interested in the former but not the latter.

Drop-sensitivity (3, Interesting)

Jmstuckman (561420) | about 2 months ago | (#46354517)

My Blackberry Q10 has a removable battery, and it reboots itself whenever I set it down on a desk too hard. Most or all smartphones with removable batteries that I've used in the past did the same thing.

If we can't even engineer a phone so a non-soldered battery stays connected on a mild shock, how are we going to allow for users to replace every component of their phones?

Re:Drop-sensitivity (2)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 2 months ago | (#46355569)

Weird. Every phone I've ever owned has a removable battery. Not one has ever done this, even when accidentally I drop them on the floor. How hard are you slamming them down?

Re:Drop-sensitivity (1)

Triv (181010) | about 2 months ago | (#46357445)

"My Blackberry Q10 has a removable battery, and it reboots itself whenever I set it down on a desk too hard. Most or all smartphones with removable batteries that I've used in the past did the same thing."

"Weird. Every phone I've ever owned has a removable battery. Not one has ever done this, even when accidentally I drop them on the floor. How hard are you slamming them down?"

ANECDOTE FIGHT!

Drop-sensitivity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46364157)

Then you only have used smartphones with really crap build quality, or you've been denting desks/tables everytime you put down a phone.

Re:Drop-sensitivity (1)

knarf (34928) | about 2 months ago | (#46371355)

Hmmmm.... I wonder what you do to your phones which makes them do that. I have only ever had phones with removable batteries without these problems. Either you always buy lemons, you exaggerate the problem or you slam them down on the desk in a futile attempt to form a phone-shaped crater in the surface.

While the concept of a lego phone might not appeal to everyone, there certainly is some merit in being able to swap more than just the battery.

Also remember that GSM phones already contain user-swappable devices (SIM cards) which do not seem to suffer from your desk-dunking disease. There are ways of achieving this modularity without sacrificing reliability.

Car Analogy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46354713)

I don't understand the concept. Can someone make a car analogy for me?

Uh huh. (3, Informative)

DirePickle (796986) | about 2 months ago | (#46354729)

Yes, Google, that has done everything it can to kill the microSD slot, physical keyboard, and removable battery now wants to swing back towards upgradable phones. Whatever.

Re:Uh huh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46360845)

They had reasons for killing SD card support in Android, and they revolve around SD cards providing a sub-optimal user experience. I personally don't think they are good enough to warrant doing that given the benefit of having that option, but I can believe they think they are. As to removable batteries and keyboards, I thought that was down to OEMs.

Remember the 486SX? (1)

jkonrath (72701) | about 2 months ago | (#46357811)

Does anyone remember when 486SX computers came and it was a big deal that you could later upgrade the processor to a 486DX computer, making them totally modular and cool, and then like ten seconds later, Intel came out with the Pentium with a completely different bus and the entire system was obsolete? That's about what this sounds like. The second you get in your hands the all-updatable 64-bit system, every phone moves to 128-bit chips and you're stuck with half as many pins on your plugs just to get your phone up to current technology.

This will be a success (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46359541)

I find nay saying comments and articles about this project a bit humorous. Modular phone components will be successful. There are a number of reasons for upcoming success. First, history is basically repeating itself. Early computers were very complicated devices and not really up-gradable. Many components were interfaced using external ports. As the development of the computer moved forward components became more modular and often lived inside the case. Sound cards, video cards, daughter boards, game cards (for controller ports), expanded HD plugs, special processing boards, etc. You could buy a "basic" system and adjust it to meet your needs. It is true that many of these components are now part of the motherboard. The difference is phone technology appear to be at about the same place computers were when computers went more modular.

Second, some of my generation (mid 30's) and many of the next generations basically live from their mobile device. There is no doubt in my mind that individuals would like to customize their device to meet their lifestyle. Currently individuals can only choose hardware combinations dictated by the manufacturer. Sort of like buying a house with only a few options with the type of furniture, drapes, counter tops, tables, lamps, and other decor chosen for you by someone else. Individuals will customize their hardware given the option, and those configurations will suit their usage better. If they need to change they can swap a part out.

Finally, upcoming generations are inundated with technology. They have more exposure to the usage of these devices. While not all of them my be what was once considered a "nerd" many of them will be able to choose modules and snap them into place. The article even states that they are building the device so it doesn't take a tech person to swap modules.

This type of hardware will be welcomed. The format will bring a large number of other developers to the scene that otherwise could not have entered.

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46359597)

Phones are already fragile, why would I want something put together like legos?
Inside a phone the connections between components are very tiny and complicated and would be near impossible to implement in a macro connector. You would need to serialize the signals and have redundant circuitry in every component.
It would just be more expensive since you can price each thing separately.

And as for upgrading as new technologies emerge, most of the pieces of a smartphone get better pretty consistently, and would likely need the other things to be improved anyway, i.e. a new super high def camera module would require the updated processor core.. and the graphics module... and the enhanced screen so you can see it, and a larger storage block to hold stuff... and a better battery cause it really sucks the juice... hm. Then I would need to open all 6 of those boxes and disassemble my phone and piece everything together correctly, to my case and cellular module (which is the only things I didn't have to upgrade) and then figure out why something isn't working.

This could be great if it destroys carrier lock-in (1)

fastgriz (1052034) | about 2 months ago | (#46360517)

Being able to swap radio modules could be fantastic if it reduces the friction involved in switching carriers.
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