What happened to Google's Project ARA

Google's Project Ara makes you want a modular phone

Project Ara is perhaps the most exciting event happening on smartphones right now. Ara is Google's attempt to create a “modular smartphone” How modular smartphones will change mobile computing How modular smartphones will change mobile computing Google “Project Ara” from Google will do for hardware what Android did for software. Read More

But macaw is only the tip of the iceberg.

Google isn't the first to try modular smartphones, nor is it the only one still doing it - but it is at the forefront of new technology. 4 Surprising Ways Google will soon have an impact on your life. 4 Surprising Ways Google Will Have an Impact on Your Life Soon You won't be seeing interstellar spaceships and time travel machines in no time, but here are a few Google projects that will change the way you live in the next few years. Continue reading . Still, some other companies have different philosophies for modular phones and approach the concept in their own way.

What they have in common is the idea that it should be easy for a user to add or remove additional features from a phone.

It all started with Modu

The first company to get seriously involved in the modular phone cause was Modu, founded by Dov Moran, the inventor of the USB memory stick (a technology that is still relevant today. USB flash drives are still worth it in 2015) “Worth It In 2015” USB flash drives are great for storage, but they have many other uses, too, so they can be worth their weight in gold.

It is important to note that when Modu launched 2007, it wasn't looking at smartphones or pocket PCs. Instead, it focused on adding "smart cases" to mute phones.

For example, the Modu 1 was a simple little phone in itself. You could then put it in different types of cases to add functionality. Instead of a number pad, you can add a QWERTY keyboard, a speaker module to listen to music, etc.

Modu didn't start and eventually closed in 2011. Its patents were bought by Google.

The first “layered” phone

At the end of 2014, Lenovo was the first to bring a modern smartphone with modular advantages onto the market. The Lenovo Vibe X2 came with it “layers” - a series of covers designed specifically for the phone that can add various functions. It's a bit like making smart covers from tablets to laptops. Can you use a tablet as a laptop? Essential Apps and Gear Can You Use a Tablet as a Laptop? Top Apps and Gear Would you like to use your Android tablet as a laptop replacement? Here is your comprehensive guide to the hardware and software you need. Continue reading .

For example, the Vibe X2 speaker was developed in collaboration with JBL to provide a range of powerful speakers with a stand. There was also a battery layer that doubled the battery life.

Of course, you can't change the smartphone yourself, which is limited to what you got out of the box. However, as the forerunner of modular phones, Lenovo's device was an important milestone.

The latest modular phone: LG G5

Similar to the Lenovo Vibe X2, the LG G5 also has additional modules. Even though it didn't hit the market until years later, the philosophy of the G5 is the same: the smartphone stays the same while you turn additional units on or off.

For example, the LG CAM Plus offers a more powerful camera module with shutter release, handle, zoom switch and record button. Similarly, the LG Hi-Fi Plus - in collaboration with Bang and Olufsen - adds an amplifier and digital audio converter to your smartphone (for high quality song output).

The G5 also doesn't let you swap batteries to add a higher capacity battery or swap an 8-megapixel camera for a 13-megapixel camera. It's more like the Layers of Lenovo than Google's macaw we're getting into.

Fairphone: Really modular and ethical

It's the first phone to get 10/10 from iFixit for its repairability, which speaks volumes for Fairphone. You can take the entire phone apart and put it back together again. All you need is a screwdriver.

Fairphone is about ethics when it comes to making a phone. It sources conflict-free minerals and materials from places where labor is known to be underutilized - a stark contrast to companies like Apple and the unfortunate conditions in their Chinese factories.

More importantly, Fairphone wants you to be able to fix things yourself.

Smartphones are fragile. The screen can break and you will have to spend a large amount to replace it. The batteries get worse with age, but try to replace it for cheap. (Good luck.) Fairphone puts all of these options back in the hands of the user.

The main core module (with circuit board, antennas, and connectors) costs about $ 350, the screen about $ 100, and the battery about $ 25. You can buy these or other items separately and store them in your smartphone if necessary.

The first Fairphone didn't impress us that much (read our review Fairphone Review and Giveaway Fairphone Review and Giveaway The Fairphone was pre-ordered last year for a first European first edition of 25,000 units. Read more), but Fairphone 2 seems much better on paper to be. Fairphone has yet to announce whether it will be releasing different types of parts that will fit inside the phone. So it is aimed at repairing rather than modifying your phone.

Google's Project Ara: The Next Step

All of these previous modular smartphones show why Google Project Ara is so important.

Google has apparently been working on Ara for quite a while Project Ara: How You Build Your Next Smartphone Project Ara: How You Build Your Next Smartphone You buy an expensive device and it works perfectly for eighteen months. Then it will gradually slow down and the memory will be full and the battery will not last that long. Read on and imagine how a truly modular smartphone should work. It has finally come to the point that Ara's Developer Edition will be available later in 2016.

There is a "basic unit" that consists of your screen, your circuit board, and other internal components such as the processor and RAM. The back also consists of removable modules.

Add a camera module to click Photos. Take it out and replace it with the e-ink reader module to read a book without draining the battery. The possibilities are endless, at least in theory.

The Ara has six module slots that you can easily detach from the phone. The open standard UniPro port allows anyone to create modules so it's easy to snap and release without worrying about everything breaking. Wired, who had a quick look at the phone, describes how it works:

Press a button on the right side of the phone to view a map of all of your modules. Tap the picture of the module you want to delete, then scroll the phone. A moment later it is released. Or do it like Camargo (Ara's technical project manager) and say, "OK, Google, throw the camera off."

And Ara will go beyond the basic smartphone-centric modules alone. It's not just about a better camera or more battery life. Google provides immediate blood tests and sensors to monitor air quality. New biosensors turn your smartphone into a tricorder New biosensors turn your smartphone into a tricorder When it comes to health, new smartphone sensors can turn your phone into a medical tricorder right out of Star Trek. But what are you going to do with them? Read more, among other things.

The macaw still has one major flaw

Despite all the advances, Project Ara still has a few flaws to ensure it has a long life. For starters, the base unit cannot be upgraded, so you'll be using the same combination of processor, RAM, and screen even as technology advances.

“The 6 small blocky modules on the back of the phone are just add-ons such as better cameras, speakers, scanners, etc. to customize your phone,” criticized Hakken.

“This means that after a while, your phone will still be out of date. What if your screen breaks? Now you have to replace the entire phone. And after a couple of years it gets slow and you have to replace your entire skeleton. "

This is a big deal. The modular Ara allows you to change things that are not essential for the smartphone. However, the important parts remain in the hands of the manufacturer. How long is the phone then? Hopefully more than a couple of years.

Ara vs. Fairphone: Which is Better?

The philosophical battle of the modular telephones is based on a battle between Ara and Fairphone. Ara has Lenovo, LG, and others on its side, believing “modular” means adding and removing parts to get functionality that a smartphone doesn't otherwise have.

Fairphone, on the other hand, believes “modular” means being able to replace core elements of a smartphone so that it is not overtaken as technology advances.

On which side are you? What is your definition of “modular” philosophy? And since Fairphone is already available and Ara will be available shortly, which of the two will be your next smartphone?

Learn more about: Modular Phones, Project Ara.