Google's Project Ara may truly change smartphones

By: Marawan Alwaraki, May 25, 2016
Remember when you used to only use your phone to call people and maybe send a few texts? Back in the day when a phone was just a phone, when you spent a few minutes changing your ringtone or playing Bounce. Then Steve Jobs announced the iPhone and changed the way we see phones.

Since then, phones have been incrementally improving. When you compare the iPhone 6S to the original iPhone you'll notice a lot of changes in performance, camera and display as well as new additions like Touch ID and 3D Touch. However, our perception of a phone is still very similar. It's a device you buy once every couple of years or so, and use it to scroll through Instagram for hours. After about two years you'd notice that people's pictures are looking better than yours, or your friend has a louder phone, and you'll decide it's time to upgrade.

Google is changing that soon with its Project Ara.

Images from Project Ara's website

Project Ara is a modular phone. That means you can easily update the hardware by replacing components. The way it works is almost like little building blocks (modules) on your phone. You can attach and detach modules with a better camera, speakers, second display and more. Project Ara isn't the first modular phone in the world, but it's the first one worth paying attention to.

Imagine this:
  • When your camera becomes outdated you buy a new camera and swap it with your old one without having to buy a new phone.
  • Wanna play loud music today? Attach an additional speaker to your phone in just a few seconds.

Project Ara has promising potential and Google has been working on perfecting it for a long time.

Google made sure that swapping modules is a pleasure and not a pain. Anyone can swap out a module in just a few seconds. Even better, you can say, "Ok Google, remove my camera" and watch as the camera module detaches itself from your phone.

Google is working on adding more modules to the phone. It's also allowing other companies to build their own modules that'll work seamlessly with Project Ara. The possibilities are endless. The team behind Project Ara made a video to demonstrate the phone's potential. Check it out.



Project Ara is still far from perfect though. The phone is really thick and some things like display and RAM can not be changed. The good news is that Google is working on making the phone thinner before its public release.

Google, it seems, doesn't want the phone targeted at geeks who like to disassemble their phones and tweak the internals. The phone appears to be targeted at mainstream customers who want to extend the lifespan of their phones by upgrading things like the camera, and adding speakers on the go.

Whether or not Project Ara changes smartphones is still something we'll have to wait and see, but the potential is there.

Some are even skeptical about the success of Project Ara. From The Verge:
"A great deal of Project Ara is cool, but it just doesn't compel anyone to spend extra money on it. People who want more battery life or their own aesthetic signature can just get cases for their phone, while those who want a better camera will just buy it with the phone — because it's such an essential item."
I recommend giving that article a read.

Whether or not Project Ara ultimately succeeds in changing smartphones is something we'll have to wait to find out. Google will start shipping Project Ara phones to developers this fall so that they can work on building their own modules. A consumer version is scheduled for release the following year.

What do you think of Project Ara? Could this be the biggest change to happen to smartphones since the iPhone?

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