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Motorola's "Project Ara" Will Allow Users To Customize Their Smartphones

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the snap-and-go dept.

Cellphones 112

rtoz writes "Motorola has announced 'Project Ara,' afree and open hardware platform for smartphones. The purpose of Project Ara is to create a modular smartphone that would allow users to swap hardware components according their own wish. The design for Project Ara consists of an endoskeleton (endo) and modules. 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." Motorola's not the first one to think of such a thing; this project is in cooperation with Phonebloks, which had already been pushing for reusable, reconfigurable phone components.

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Remember when (2, Funny)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 10 months ago | (#45267905)

You could buy computers with backs that opened, and you could configure them with new hardware...

Re:Remember when (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45267971)

you could buy dildos or buttplugs (we're not here to judge) and fuck yourself with them

Re:Remember when (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45272145)

you are not worthy of the anonymous coward username. Please register an account so no one thinks we're the same person.

Re:Remember when (1)

stud9920 (236753) | about 10 months ago | (#45268107)

You could buy computers with backs that opened, and you could configure them with new hardware...

Yeah, too bad you can't swap monitors, graphic adaptors, hard disks or SSDs, cpus and memory anymore. The evil corporations took away that possibility to increase profit. Oh wait, you can still do that.

Re:Remember when (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268115)

You could buy computers with backs that opened, and you could configure them with new hardware...

Traditionally though mobile phones have been black boxes, except for the batter and even that's locked-in now.

Re:Remember when (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45271865)

Hey batta-batta-batta SCHWING batta!

Re:Remember when (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268263)

You could buy computers with backs that opened, and you could configure them with new hardware...

Yes, I do. I also remember my parachute pants had pockets large enough to hold those computers. Unfortunately, I could never find an extension cord long enough to keep the darn thing powered when I traveled.

Re:Remember when (4, Insightful)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 10 months ago | (#45268367)

You could buy computers with backs that opened

Um.. nothing has changed dude. You still can. Perhaps you've been in the Apple monoculture too long.

Re:Remember when (0)

confused one (671304) | about 10 months ago | (#45268677)

You can still open the Apple computers too. He's just too lazy to do it.

Re:Remember when (2, Informative)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 10 months ago | (#45269801)

You can still open the Apple computers too. He's just too lazy to do it.

not unless you buy their proprietary screwdriver for the weird pentalobe screws they use on all of their products.

Re:Remember when (1)

confused one (671304) | about 10 months ago | (#45271647)

Or make the tool. I have a rolling tool cabinet full of various tools; and, in there is a sorter containing all the various security bits I've run across. Not having the tool is really not an excuse, when it's readily available from at least five different reputable online vendors.

Re:Remember when (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268721)

Yea, sorry aside from soldered in RAM and CPUs on Apple products, I've been changing drives and batteries without issue.

Re:Remember when (1)

Alarash (746254) | about 10 months ago | (#45270765)

Apparently with the next Intel CPU (Broadwell), it won't be possible anymore. http://www.electronista.com/articles/12/11/30/socketless.move.sees.intel.merge.processors.with.motherboard/ [electronista.com]

Re:Remember when (1)

Derec01 (1668942) | about 10 months ago | (#45273223)

Honestly in the course of many upgrades to systems (this is at a personal level, not business), I've almost never upgraded these independently. I don't know that the socket lifespan has significantly shortened; it feels more like the timespan a particular CPU is acceptable has lengthened to the socket architecture lifetime.

The major immediate effect, as someone on your link pointed out, might be the coupling of the hardware signatures for OS activation.

Re:Remember when (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45274219)

That's good.

The reason it is good, is because CPU-memory bus-width is presently limited by the pitch of the lands/pins on the cpu (Intel/AMD). You can't move them closer together without significantly increasing the cost of the CPU package and socket, or moving to a BGA soldered package, which is cheaper and can achieve a pad pitch of less than 1/4 what can be readily achieved with sockets. That translates into 16 times the pads of current CPUs, and therefore up to 16 times wider memory bus and bandwidth. It also means power can be delivered to more points on the die, reducing cross-die leakage and improving TDP. It also opens potential for having the RAM attached directly behind the CPU on the reverse side of the PCB, which can again increase bandwidth by increasing signalling rate and reduce latency, which is presently limited by trace length (capacitance and path length).

The Opencompute project has a formfactor under development (which they are working with Intel, AMD, ARM and others on) called Group Hug which is a standard formfactor for CPU+Memory modules for use in high density server clusters. With any luck that will also be available for use in desktop motherboards, and the CPU+Memory module will be upgradable separately to the PCIe, SMBus, ATX carrier board (a similar thing has existed since forever in industrial computers, called a backplane motherboard, see PIC-MG, ISA, VMEBus, etc).

Re:Remember when (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 10 months ago | (#45270131)

You could buy computers with backs that opened, and you could configure them with new hardware...

You still can.

Re:Remember when (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about 10 months ago | (#45274045)

You could buy computers with backs that opened, and you could configure them with new hardware...

Can't say it's particularly hard to remember the present. While we had (and continue to have) this with computers we have never had it with cellphones before.

Fantastic for corporate users (3, Interesting)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | about 10 months ago | (#45267909)

This is excellent. At my company we are not allowed to have phones with cameras, so now I am juggling my private smartphone and a kick-ass Nokia 101 which I take to my desk.

If I could build a smartphone with a decent touchscreen, no camera, and dual sim capabilities I'd be really happy.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (4, Insightful)

cdrudge (68377) | about 10 months ago | (#45268013)

At my company we are not allowed to have phones with cameras,

So why do you think that they would allow a phone that could easily have a camera added to it after you walked past security?

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#45268073)

With some talented exceptions, people who write lists of forbidden objects for a living often exhibit dangerously limited imagination.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268079)

Why do you think they would let you walk past security with the camera module?

Ability to add the module doesn't cause any trouble if the offending module isn't allowed past security.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | about 10 months ago | (#45268093)

Excellent question. I guess the fact that all management has been switched to iPhones recently shows that some pigs are more equal than others, and more importantly smartphones are OK.

Let's face it, if you want to steal stuff there are a million ways.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 10 months ago | (#45268651)

Because that's not the point. The rules say there's no cameras allowed, so if anyone brings a camera in, they're breaking the rules. Sure, you can sneak in a camera, and I'd expect people do it accidentally all the time, but if it's ever taken out or used inside the secure area, everybody nearby knows that it's banned.

The policy is really only expected to encourage questioning. The natural assumption that everyone is honest is the biggest threat to security.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45269877)

Because the NSA aint too bright you see!

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

gapagos (1264716) | about 10 months ago | (#45270775)

Because it is just a security theater [xkcd.com] .

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268037)

This is excellent. At my company we are not allowed to have phones with cameras

Your employer assumes you're some kind of thief or spy, then? I'm sure that really boosts morale!

No really, unless you're doing some kind of top-secret military work or something, that's completely inappropriate.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

confused one (671304) | about 10 months ago | (#45268369)

And if we do do "some kind of" military work? No cameras allowed in production areas. -- that sign is prominently posted in places in our building.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#45268103)

This is excellent. At my company we are not allowed to have phones with cameras, so now I am juggling my private smartphone and a kick-ass Nokia 101 which I take to my desk.

If I could build a smartphone with a decent touchscreen, no camera, and dual sim capabilities I'd be really happy.

I've always been somewhat surprised by how (relatively) few vendors of fancy smartphones don't have a "My employer is paranoid, I'll give you $100 extra to leave out the phone module during assembly." build-to-order option.

Doesn't solve anybody's problem if they still want their phone to take pictures outside of work; but if you just don't care about your phone's camera, it'd at least let you choose from a much longer list of contemporary gear.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

tftp (111690) | about 10 months ago | (#45272319)

I've always been somewhat surprised by how (relatively) few vendors of fancy smartphones don't have a "My employer is paranoid, I'll give you $100 extra to leave out the phone module during assembly." build-to-order option.

Because then the phone cannot be used for making or receiving phone calls.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268223)

When taking apart my Galaxy SIII, I discovered that the camera modules were incredibly easy to remove. Of course this wouldn't be true of all phones.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

foobar bazbot (3352433) | about 10 months ago | (#45269155)

When taking apart my Galaxy SIII, I discovered that the camera modules were incredibly easy to remove. Of course this wouldn't be true of all phones.

It's true of most phones, though.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45269245)

samsung makes it trivial to remove the modules as they are on small ribbon cables to the main board. you would have to remove the camera app and all the other camera related stuff though, as that may make the phone crash.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 10 months ago | (#45268259)

This is excellent. At my company we are not allowed to have phones with cameras

Are you allowed to have any other kind of camera?

How do they stop people from carrying one of those cameras that look like a car key, an usb key, a pen, or any other tiny item? [amazon.com]

Or is it just a security circus to tell the clients "We are ultra secure!".

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#45268405)

Well if you've deliberately taken a concealed, disguised camera in to work it'd be easier for them to show mens rea and a lot harder for you to claim good faith if a bunch of photos of your super-secret workspace later showed up on Friendface.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 10 months ago | (#45268615)

So all you need to do to remove an obstacle on your route to the top is to drop some $9 spy cameras on the obstacle's pocket.

It's quite cheaper than the classic "drop some coke on his pocket and on his drug test day coffee".

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#45268927)

You'd have to drop the spy cameras in their pocket and then somehow plant evidence that they were actually using the cameras to cause leaks, yes, but that's all the help you're getting from me on this one. Enjoy ascending to management.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45269463)

You're a freaking idiot. They don't search you for cameras or check your phone for a camera on most no-cam sites. That's *not* the point. The policy is intended to tell you that *if* you're found using a camera you'll probably be dismissed, so most people won't bring them in and anyone who does use one will stick out.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 10 months ago | (#45270055)

They aren't so much afraid of people intentionally bringing in cameras as they are worried about people bringing in recording devices which are attached to easily hacked sensor platforms. Yes, I could easily bring in a hidden camera to work, but I won't and I don't because I agreed not to. However, if I were allowed to bring my phone, and someone hacked it to constantly record audio/video and transmit it back out, that might be a bit of a problem that doesn't even require a malicious employee.

They also just want to avoid dumbass mistakes and make certain behaviors more obvious. ie: A simple 'No cell phones rule' is a hell of a lot easier to enforce than a 'Cell phones are ok, but make sure they are on airplane mode or turned off, and don't use the USB ports to charge them, and make sure they aren't hacked' rule.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

balaband (1286038) | about 10 months ago | (#45269061)

Actually it is more than just you.

1. People who hate to change their phone. One little thing broke? Replace and continue. Even if it is a main board, changing this part will be cheaper that changing whole phone (and if you made a image of your phone, just flash the image and bam - proceed like nothing happened).

Getting use to new phone, buttons and layouts is stressful to most users. I know if you told my father he can have a phone that will serve him for the next 10 years, he would love it.

2. People who will want upgrades. Your screen is not full HD? Buy replacement screen, keep this one as a spare. You still have the same phone that you got use to, just it rocks a bit more.

But my favorite:

3. Phone hacking enthusiasts: You all probably know about Neo900 project by now. Imagine taking Neo (or some other open-source supported) main board + modules from this project. Now you can install Tizen (or whatever it is called these days)/Sailfish/Ubuntu/FirefoxOS and have high quality phone with the environment customized to your choosing.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

ottothecow (600101) | about 10 months ago | (#45273737)

#1 is one of the few reasons I wish I had gone apple.

The phones got a little taller with the iPhone 5, but they have basically been the same form factor since 2007. And the interface/buttons have remained basically the same (although, I would love to have a dedicated back button that is always in exactly the same place).

I sat there with an open contract for a good 6 months waiting for a phone that I actually wanted to replace my old phone. The android options were huge...the S4 and HTC One are giants and the small screen options were super thick (since they were "budget" models). I wanted an S4 mini but it didn't seem to be in a hurry to make it to AT&T (and the HTC one mini was barely smaller than the HTC one despite having a smaller screen). Finally I went with a moto X which was a decent size (much smaller than the HTC one despite the same size screen) and had a contoured back to make up for the bulk a bit. Even then, I had to deal with the new trend towards getting rid of the dedicated "menu" button. I still have the back button in the same place in every app, but now the menu can be anywhere.

If I had joined the apple-borg, the only reason to delay buying a new phone at contract expiration would be if the next model was about to be released.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45271889)

You can just remove the camera module from the phone, it already is connected to a socket.
Been there done that, gets some strange looks the first time and they want to check the camera app, but then it's ok normally.

Re:Fantastic for corporate users (1)

Fredde87 (946371) | about 10 months ago | (#45273415)

Why cant you buy a normal smartphone and just remove the camera from the phone? Not very hard to open a phone up and remove the camera?

Not that new (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45267981)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/12/phonebloks_n_3908611.html

Not new but hopefully they will not start a war with different type of phones making it impossible to swap parts. The original project is to essentially to have one plateform and then upgrading the parts,,if we start having different platform, that king of kills the original idea which is making a more viable world with less footprint

Re:Not that new (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268047)

The summary itself says that its in cooperation with Phonebloks...

Re:Not that new (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#45268051)

They're collaborating with the Phonebloks guy. It's up there in the summary.

Re:Not that new (1)

sootman (158191) | about 10 months ago | (#45269655)

You know how people are always saying things like "brown is the new black", "orange is the new pink", "40 is the new 30", etc? Well, RTFS is the new RTFA.

Re:Not that new (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#45269805)

You're behind. "RTFT" (read the fine title) is the new RTFS. I wish I was joking.

Re:Not that new (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45271123)

Wait, the millennials have even made the articles entitled? What is happening to the world...

Re:Not that new (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45273879)

You know how people are always saying things like "brown is the new black", "orange is the new pink", "40 is the new 30", etc? Well, RTFS is the new RTFA.

Gay people?

Re:Not that new (1)

neonmonk (467567) | about 10 months ago | (#45268141)

Learn to read before spouting off nonsense.

What i want... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268025)

I want a phone that makes and recieves phone calls.

And comes with a battery that will last for a month per charge and will charge with a STANDARD usb plug.

Can i get that?

Nobody wants to sell me that...

Re:What i want... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#45268149)

Nokia will sell you that. Admittedly it'll charge with a barrel plug rather than a USB cable but then it's a phone, not a computer peripheral.

Re:What i want... (1)

mlk (18543) | about 10 months ago | (#45268597)

Nokia 515. 38 day battery life.
Right can we stop posting this now every time a smart phone story comes up? Or does the fact it comes with a 5MP camera offend you?
Nokia Asha 210. 32 day battery life.
Cool can we stop now. Oh wait. Look at that keyboard.

Damn it something will have to give. You can have Even Dumber phones (Nokia 208 or a bunch of LG phones) but you will have to live with 20-day battery life. You poor little bunny.

Re:What i want... (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | about 10 months ago | (#45268939)

I would also like to have a phone cable rather than an antenna...

Re:What i want... (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 10 months ago | (#45270381)

That is the whole point of this phone. You should be able to pick up a simple screen, powerful radio, small storage, hardware keyboard for texting and really big battery powering a fairly anemic but capable single core low power cpu with almost no graphics. Should stay in contact very well and last a very long time on a single charge.

Television is the American ideal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268027)

John Reston: Television can control public opinion more effectively than armies of secret police, because television is entirely voluntary. The American government forces our children to attend school, but nobody forces them to watch T.V. Americans of all ages *submit* to television. Television is the American ideal. Persuasion without coercion. Nobody makes us watch. Who could have predicted that a *free* people would voluntarily spend one fifth of their lives sitting in front of a *box* with pictures? Fifteen years sitting in prison is punishment. But 15 years sitting in front of a television set is entertainment. And the average American now spends more than one and a half years of his life just watching television commercials. Fifty minutes, every day of his life, watching commercials. Now, that's power.

When do we get this for laptops? (1)

mothlos (832302) | about 10 months ago | (#45268031)

I honestly don't care too much about my phone's specs, but build-your-own laptops have never seemed to surface despite BYO desktops being an important surviving part of that shrinking sector. I just want to be able to buy processor and graphics upgrades and not have to purchase a new monitor and keyboard whenever I want a new mobile computer.

Re:When do we get this for laptops? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#45268243)

CPU upgrades are mostly doable (approximately as much as in a hypothetical desktop computer where you can't do a motherboard swap); but GPU upgrades seem to be game over. Yeah, MxM 'exists'; but very few laptops use it, there is virtually no secondary market in MxM cards (much less GPU vendors or their OEMs putting new MxM cards, with new GPUs, on the market as individual parts, it's almost all working-pulls from dead hardware), and, while the module is the same size and shape at all times, the require cooling certainly isn't...

Re:When do we get this for laptops? (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#45268247)

Size constraints, essentially.

1) User-friendly connectors and easy access paths use up volume. It's not a zero-sum game, but making a compact machine with user-serviceable components takes engineering effort, which means more R&D money.

2) You can reduce volume by using non-standard parts that fit more neatly together.

The first one means your GPU and CPU are more often than not a single component soldered directly on the motherboard, and the second one means that nobody has come up with a standardised monitor/hinge or even keyboard/trackpad design.

Re:When do we get this for laptops? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268949)

BYO laptops have been around for 10+ years. They're just bulky and everybody wants something mac book air sized. The neckbeard/virgin market segment is notoriously cheap too.

Re:When do we get this for laptops? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 10 months ago | (#45269521)

I honestly don't care too much about my phone's specs, but build-your-own laptops have never seemed to surface despite BYO desktops being an important surviving part of that shrinking sector. I just want to be able to buy processor and graphics upgrades and not have to purchase a new monitor and keyboard whenever I want a new mobile computer.

They do exist, but most people don't know about them because they usually exit the market shortly after introduction when buyers go and see that they'll end up buying a 10 lbs monster that only has 2 hours of battery life and looks like a huge plastic brick with gaps and holes everywhere. For the same price, they could get one that's pretty much similar in performance, weighs under half that, gets twice the battery life, and doesn't look ugly as sin.

Also, just because the phone is moduler doesn't mean there's no profit - you can expect rapid changes to formfactors that mean you need to replace the major components all the time (similar to how CPU/Motherboard/Memory tend to be tied together on desktop PCs these days, especially if you keep them a few years).

U sure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268053)

Since when major tech companies announce new stuff on third party weblogs?

Physical keyboard (1)

candeoastrum (1262256) | about 10 months ago | (#45268165)

Can I add a physical keyboard? It seems like I am one of only a handful of people on the planet that still likes them so I would love to add that although I am not holding my breath.

Re:Physical keyboard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268241)

Yes, that is a component.

Re:Physical keyboard (2)

Gunboat_Diplomat (3390511) | about 10 months ago | (#45268265)

Can I add a physical keyboard? It seems like I am one of only a handful of people on the planet that still likes them so I would love to add that although I am not holding my breath.

I think a lot of people like physical keyboards. I've had various full qwerty physical keyboard phones that have been far superior to any predictive touch input, for writing emails etc. The problem is that the cost is too high compared to the simplicity of touch screens handling everything. And that is cost both in terms of production cost and the added size/weight and breakage risk.

Re:Physical keyboard (1)

candeoastrum (1262256) | about 10 months ago | (#45268303)

I see. I wouldn't mind paying extra though. Apple charges a premium for what they consider added value and I wouldn't mind paying for a phone with what I consider added value.

Re:Physical keyboard (1)

mlts (1038732) | about 10 months ago | (#45269035)

I'd be quite happy for a physical keyboard similar to what was on the Motorola CLIQ/DEXT which would spring open and closed.

Of course, the #1 thing in a phone would be an unlocked bootloader, but next to that would be a physical keyboard and a decent amount of RAM so activities don't have to be reloaded when I switch apps.

Of course, there is the pie in the sky stuff: I'd like two features that were present in the Atrix: The fingerprint scanner [1], and the ability to be dropped in a dock and run a lightweight Linux distribution. This would allow me to do basic stuff when on the road, and if someone stole the docking station, whoop-de-do, as all the data would be on the phone.

Of course, being able to use a phone as a NAS would be nice for critical documents because they could be encrypted with a mechanism similar to how Titanium Backup encrypts backups [2], and syncs them to a remote cloud site. Combined with an archive feature (which allows files to be stored on the remote site and removed from the device), it would provide a fairly usable central place for storing documents in a secure manner [3].

[1]: Fingerprint scanners have their flaws, but for a screen lock, or a means of telling an app that it is OK to do a task (like sign/decrypt a file), it is a decent addition.

[2]: Titanium Backup uses RSA public/private keys. For encrypting backups, it uses a public key. When decrypting, it uses a user-set password to unlock the private key, which unlocks the file's symmetric key.

[3]: Of course, cloud providers can go down or have issues, but there are APIs out there to allow data to be sent to multiple providers at once. That way, if Dropbox dies, the data is still retrievable from Skydrive.

Re:Physical keyboard (2)

gmuslera (3436) | about 10 months ago | (#45268633)

You probably will have better luck with Jolla's Other half [jolla.com] approach, where you can change the cover for more/different functionality, and between the proposed alternatives, there is one with hardware keyboard.

Can we change the network hardware? (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | about 10 months ago | (#45268187)

E.g. switch from Verizon to Sprint? Or upgrade from 4G to whatever comes next?

.

Re:Can we change the network hardware? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45269173)

I suspect this is part of the appeal to Google; if they can get modular phones off the ground, they can reduce the carrier-controlled portion to just the modem "block" and break carriers' hold over the software that runs on their networks. That would be a huge win, not just for Google, but for consumers as well.

'loat (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 10 months ago | (#45268195)

I want a lot more RAM and an FM receiver. There is so little RAM in my bloatware-choked Verizon phone, every time I switch apps, then go back to browsing, the browser has to download the page again because it got killed off.This busts my data cap and incurs more charges. Didn't Verizon realize this when they limited RAM and loaded up most free space with unkillable bloatware?

It sounds like they didn't know what they were doing would lead to these extra charges to their customers which then went into their pockets.

Re:'loat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268245)

This busts my data cap and incurs more charges. Didn't Verizon realize this when they limited RAM and loaded up most free space with unkillable bloatware?

Yes. Yes, they did.

Unrealistic to say the least ! (1)

dargaud (518470) | about 10 months ago | (#45268237)

I'd seen the Phonebloks video a while ago and thought it was some kind of joke: their CPU block has 4 pins. 4 !!! I don't know how many pins a current Cortex A-9 has but I'd bet it's over 300... I'd love this concept to work, but it's a tad bit unrealistic.

Re:Unrealistic to say the least ! (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#45268261)

Surely you'd just have the CPU/GPU/RAM in a single component, and then it could talk to the other peripherals through some sort of efficient bus? Not 4 pins, but maybe HDMI to the display and USB out to a hub in the backplate that then talked to the other peripherals.

Re:Unrealistic to say the least ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268551)

CPU, GPU and lots of other peripherals are already included in the main package.

Today, Flash and RAM are connected to the CPU SoC on a 'Package on Package" (PoP), so it is essentially one big package.

Even with this technology, the main package still requires around 740 pins to connect to the circuit board.

Even if they could embed the GPS, Wifi, Bluetooth, FM, CODEC, Power management inside the main package, it would still require lots os pins to connect to the base board.

A modular phone like this would be several times bigger than regular cell phones.

So it won't happen anytime soon.

Re:Unrealistic to say the least ! (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 10 months ago | (#45270659)

I am cool with a phone 3 times as thick.

Replaceable radio module, CPU block that has a high clock dual core (No quads), 24 Gig storage, Lots of RAM, and a physical keyboard and a big battery.

Do not need it thin. Do not need NFC, Bluetooth, Want great reception of the phone network and WiFi. I could live with a bulkier phone if could be modified to do what I want it to do.

Re:Unrealistic to say the least ! (1)

confused one (671304) | about 10 months ago | (#45268315)

While that number is low, it's not far off. you need power and communication. interchip communication for a phone is largely serial. So, you need a bus with a minumum of 2 or 3 dedicated pins for communication and 2 pins for power. One has to assume the RAM and some FLASH would be embedded on the CPU block. Additional memory space (flash) would also use a serial communication bus. You could either use the same bus as all the peripherals or add a bus specifically for memory. Similar answer applies for the screen, for the camera, and for all the other peripherals. Since they're trying to keep the modules more or less interchangeable, they either limit the bus width or run all the possible bus combinations to all the modules. The simple solution is one shared bus (KISS principle).

Re:Unrealistic to say the least ! (1)

julesh (229690) | about 10 months ago | (#45268813)

I don't know how many pins a current Cortex A-9 has but I'd bet it's over 300...

Varies depending on the precise implementation. The smallest I'm aware of is the Allwinner A13, which has a 176-pin package. It's possible that some application-specific chips have fewer: the A13 is designed to run with external RAM and NAND flash, high colour LCD display and multiple additional external peripherals, which explains the pin count -- but if you designed a chip with onboard RAM and storage for an application where monochrome display was standard and you only wanted to talk to a handful of peripherals, I'm sure you could get the pin count down to something a lot more manageable.

Re:Unrealistic to say the least ! (1)

xupere (1680472) | about 10 months ago | (#45270073)

4 pins should be enough for anybody.

Not going to happen (3, Insightful)

renzhi (2216300) | about 10 months ago | (#45268339)

Don't hold your breath, this is not going to happen. There is little profit margin in selling components like this, why would the phone manufacturers get into low-margin business and abandon their high-profit business? Selling replaceable components means that users are going to hold on to their longer, and replace it less. Where's the profit in that the manufacturers? Their job is to dump a new phone model on the market every 3 months, rinse and repeat.

Re:Not going to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45269193)

This is where government regulation must step in, in the interest of future generations. The long view is that we don't want a Wall-E style distopia based on ridiculous consumption & waste.

Government adding a surcharge/deposit program for new phone purchase to cover costs of proper recycling would be one thing to consider. The deposit on these modular components could then be a fraction of a phone's.

Re:Not going to happen (1)

sootman (158191) | about 10 months ago | (#45269565)

There are many reasons why this won't work, or won't work well. For one thing, there is no wasted space inside a modern smartphone. Fitting every component into its own rectangular plastic case would roughly double the volume of a modern phone.

Sizing of components is another issue. You can't have an arbitrary number of arbitrarily-sized components always add up to a perfect rectangle. Take ten basic Lego bricks of varying sizes, and see how many ways you can make a perfect rectangle -- and how many ways you can't.

Now, put various numbers of electrical leads on each and see how much harder it gets. Battery, CPU, input device, speaker, camera, screen, etc., will all have drastically different numbers of pins needed. It's a neat idea but NO WAY is it going to happen as shown in the video.

Re:Not going to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45269757)

Remember that Motorola in now a Google company. Google has more interest in dominate the SO market. If they can make everyone migrate to Motorola, even if Motorola have little profit margin on the phone, Google can make huge profit from Android. We can read this news like "How to kill hardware companies (Apple, Samsung, etc)"

Re:Not going to happen (1)

HoldmyCauls (239328) | about 10 months ago | (#45271789)

When has Google followed the model you're describing? Theirs is "support a dev phone for at least two major release cycles, sell at less than half the price of a similar-spec OEM phone, put a dent in the entrenched scheme of subsidized phones at appalling retail prices." Everything Google has done in this space has been good for Google, and often good for nerds who like having a decent device that's also hackable. Modular phones means that the few friends who trust someone like a Slashdotter to help make purchasing decisions get to see what something like this can become in the hands of a capable nerd. And the OEMs who build a disposable phone type are the ones who lose market share. Those who create something worth supporting for its product lifetime will continue to provide for those who want something integrated and are willing to keep signing a 2-yr (now, potentially 1-yr, though with the caveat of selling your old phone or paying more upfront or over time) contract.

Re:Not going to happen (1)

Derec01 (1668942) | about 10 months ago | (#45273159)

It's in Google's interest to make this happen. Apple, and by extension iOS, is supported by these high margin phones, and they would be hugely damaged if the same "assembled-to-order" transition that hit PCs early on became commonplace for phones. Apple probably isn't structured to support a huge number of configurations for iOS.

Granted, Apple still survives in laptops, etc. as a premium, standardized version. However, the phenomenon would be a huge boon for Android in high performance phones.

Re:Not going to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45273485)

Because if it's what the people want (which in itself is debatable), then eventually there will be a company which will be happy with the low profits and produce the thing.
Once it's available and the customers flock to it, the other manufacturers won't have a choice.

It's pure capitalism at work. All markets tend towards commoditization, whether the companies involved like it or not (they usually don't).

Changeable battery is enough! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268387)

I only ask for a changeable battery, the rest is going to be replaced at once every 1-2 years anyway.

Re:Changeable battery is enough! (1)

CCarrot (1562079) | about 10 months ago | (#45269453)

I only ask for a changeable battery, the rest is going to be replaced at once every 1-2 years anyway.

Umm...then buy an android...or a BB...or anything besides Apple, really. There you go, problem solved.

You don't honestly think Apple is going to buy into this concept, do you? The same people who won't even let you add software unless it's blessed by their own priests and issues from their own holy garden? The ones that are now actively blocking aftermarket hardware [phonearena.com] too? Their claims that it is to protect their hapless users from these evil third party vendors is pretty laughable, as in they saw nothing funny about people refusing to pay their apple tax on frigging cables, so now they're 'protecting' people while laughing all the way to the bank...

This is a kill attempt (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268393)

Motorola, of course, has no interest in modular phones. The market for them is relatively small, and if a part fails (say, the headphone jack), it's much, much more profitable to force consumers to buy a new $350 phone than it is to sell them a $5 replacement module. Plus, the mobile carrier "free" upgrade system is already in place, essentially locking consumers in to buying a new phone every two years (obviously theyre not locked in, but who would pass up a heavily-discounted phone?). This scheme is not really compatible with a modular phone.

Motorola is "partnering" with Phonebloks in order to gain creative control of the project, and delay or entirely kill this potential threat to their highly profitable business model.

Re:This is a kill attempt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45272665)

Motorola is Google's new toy. What would you do if you had a new toy, and it was Motorola?

1 hr to go! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45268707)

If you want to publicize the Phonebloks concept, join the Thunderclap here! There's only an hour left: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/2931-phonebloks

dropping phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45269483)

Imagine how many pieces you must chase down once you drop one of these phones.

Re:dropping phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45271063)

Better chasing pieces than cracking screen. There's also this novel invention called "case" you can use to hold things together.

Honestly fuck Motorola and their locked bootloader (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45269629)

I have bought 2 Motorola phones in the past and they both never received promised software updates and they had locked bootloaders preventing me from upgrading it myself. Screw them, I'm sure they'll find a way to mess this up too.

poor website (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45269811)

This rtoz website is one of the worst tech website i've ever seen

why do we keep seeing it? ...

Impractical (1)

jtara (133429) | about 10 months ago | (#45271669)

It's a ridiculous, impractical concept.

I was a radio amateur in high school and college. At the time, portable transceivers, commonly called "HT"s, (for "handi-talkie", I think a Motorola trademark) were getting popular with hams. Initially, there were no companies making such transceivers specifically for amateur radios, so they managed to get surplus police radios that could be re-tuned to work on a nearby ham band.

The elite choice was by and far the Motorola "bricks", so called because of their weight, size, and most of all reliability. But they were expensive - several hundred dollars for a radio that was beat to hell but still worked. These were the "iPhones" of HTs:

http://mfwright.com/HT220.html [mfwright.com]

I couldn't afford one, but I found a larger, clunkier version from a company I think called Tec, at a swap-and-shop (flea market). It had a modular design. You popped off the back, and there were probably 20 little cubic plug-in modules.

Problem is, those things just never worked. Well, imagine all those hundreds of contacts, jostling around during day-to-day use by cops. They were totally unreliable. And the thing was huge, due to the packaging overhead.

These were the "Phonebloks"...

Re:Impractical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45272919)

TL;DR: I remember technology how it was half a dozen generations of electronic design ago and believe nothing in electronics and engineering has changed ever since.

How will it handle drivers? (1)

caspy7 (117545) | about 10 months ago | (#45271825)

I'm curious how they will handle the driver situation in Android.
As I understand it the specific drivers for your device's hardware are package (compiled?) with the OS, making it infeasible to swap out parts.
Perhaps drivers could be stored in updatable firmware on the modules?

Reminds me of the Handspring Visor I used to own (1)

Harvey Manfrenjenson (1610637) | about 10 months ago | (#45272531)

Remember those? An early attempt at a "modular" PDA. It worked OK, but the concept went nowhere. The basic unit became obsolete quickly and most of the available "add-ons" were simply built into next-gen PDAs.

Anyway, aren't most of the proposed add-ons (battery packs, external displays, pulse oximeters) already available for existing phones?

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