Project Ara – An Innovation
A few years ago I saw this video that had an excellent idea about introducing a mobile in the market which the users built for themselves according to their preferences and requirements. The moment I saw that video I was thinking, “Wow I would love to walk in the store and build my own phone like LEGO model. Instead of buying something available in the market, majority of the features which I don’t want or need.” I was among thousands of others who followed the link in the video and enlisted in the declaration asking for introducing a customizable phone in the market.
The concept was popular and Google picked it up. And now we are hearing about Project Ara for quite some time. Frankly speaking, many smart phone enthusiasts are too excited for it. Several pictures and videos have been released over the past few months about the prototype and we have been hearing about the release date as well.
Project Ara is a DIY smart phone which is pretty standard in shape. A rectangular frame known as the Endoskeleton with one side reserved for the screen while the other side having small rectangular brackets for different hardware components of the phone. The concept is similar to the DIY personal computers that are available in the market. You just have to buy a casing and then build your own computer with off the shelf parts readily available everywhere in the market. Such customization gave the users the ultimate control over what they want and they didn’t have to rely on factory built computers. A person interested in pictures can have a bigger lens camera or a gaming enthusiast can swap the standard CPU/GPU for a bigger one. In short words, I don’t think that there are going to be two similar phones once users get their hands on this device.
Last month Google unveiled some detailed specs of the first device which will hit the market. The unveiling was done at the Project Ara Developers Conference. First release will be in Puerto Rico later this year where the market tests will also be made. The beta version will have a 720p display, a dual core processor with a standard GPU, 5 MP back camera, 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Nothing fancy, right? But that’s not bad news considering you will have all the power to turn this standard phone into a flagship in no time. The phone will have 11 additional modules available, number of which is expected to rise to 30 later on this year. No exact details of release dates are available at this time but chances are that Project Ara will be available in the worldwide market before the end of 2015.
The biggest benefit is you don’t have to replace your phone every time something stops working. Just go to the local store and by the replaceable part and voila! You’re done. Secondly you will have wide choice of parts from different manufacturers that you can try on. And there are many combinations that you can have. Like you are going to a party and want to have a better camera, swap the existing one with a better lens and a bigger memory. With so many modules available you can have anything you want. The endoskeleton is designed and wired to communicate with all inserted modules, so all you have to do is just slide in what you want and you are done.
On the surface it seems there are no drawbacks to Project Ara and we might miss some of them due to excitement. Anyone who has been familiar with building their custom computers knows that too much choice can spoil a person and disturb their overall budget. Although the price of the Endoskeleton will be much less but there is no limit to what you will actually spend once you are done customizing (which might never happen).
The Endoskeleton is designed to communicate between different modules, but what about the compatibility of different modules with each other. So if you are buying a high end camera module of say, company A. Will it work flawlessly with the processor of company B. Or you will have to buy the processor of A. Hardware compatibility might be one of the issues that users will face, unless Google and other manufacturers involved in the development of this project look into it.
The final drawback is that this phone is not for everyone. Majority of smart phone users are not familiar with hardware and software of their phone. So if you ask them to build their own phone, they will have a pretty hard time figuring out what they want.
The excitement that people like me have for this phone is too much which makes us ignore the drawbacks (if any) of this project. Right now many of us would just want to have a LEGO-style-phone in our hands so that we can make something that is actually for our self, rather than something that is developed after a market survey of a handful of people.