As a smartphone repair guy, I know how inexpensive some of the current phone repair/replacement parts (that can be replaced) can be. The problem isn’t the cost, it’s the labor that goes into taking the entire phone apart, and keeping track of all the little tiny pieces, just to replace that singular non-functioning piece. Time consuming, but job security.
I’m a fan of D.I.Y., so I would gladly just sell the parts and just let my customers snap them on. That kind of “swappable” phone may not be too far off in the distant future. Imagine a smartphone where if your screen cracks/goes blank, camera stops working, battery dies, or you just need more storage space, you just pop that piece off and slap on a new piece in a matter of seconds.
Google’s Project Ara is exactly that – A modular smartphone that resembles blocks of separate components that you piece together to build a complete device. Think of a Lego phone.
Sound crazy? Probably. But when has that stopped Google? The company recently held an entire press conference, where consumers could buy three basic sizes, but all the components (motherboard cellular radio, camera, battery, screen) are separate pieces that snapped to the main unit by electro-permanent magnets.
During the two-day conference, Google outlined their plans to build the devices, support a network of module developers & manufacturers, and retail shops [lightbulb] where consumers can come in and pick up the necessary parts to repair or upgrade their device.
According to Google, the plan is to ramp up the support networks first, before launching the actual units, which could all go down sometime in 2015 if everything works out. If you’re a developer looking to jump on the latest and greatest, a MDK (Module Developers Kit) is already available for download.
Google plans to have two more additional conferences this year where more modules and actual prototypes could be on display. Then I would assume the last piece would be getting buy in from the wireless carriers and making sure there are enough parts and retailers to keep up with supply and demand.
The question is, are manufacturers of smartphones willing to give up control of the actual phone to well, any and everybody looking to profit from a modular smartphone where all the individual pieces can be “sold separately”?
Additionally, if all the all pieces don’t have to be made or sold by the same company, will that make smartphone fragmentation even worse? Questions Google will have to overcome if they want Project Ara to see the light of day.
On the flip-side, imagine if a longer-lasting battery, higher resolution camera, faster processor, or better screen came out, and all you had to do to upgrade your phone was to buy the module(s) that are most important to you A La Carte style…without buying the entire phone?
Pretty dope right?