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Google's Project Ara Could Bring PC-Like Hardware Ecosystem To Phones 139

Posted by Soulskill
from the without-the-liquid-cooling-i-hope dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Now that Google's modular phone effort, Project Ara, looks a bit less like vaporware, people are starting to figure out its implications for the future of cellphones. One fascinating possibility is that it could transform the cellphone purchasing process into something resembling desktop computer purchasing. Enthusiasts could search out the individual parts they like the best and assemble them into cellphone Voltron. People who just want a decent phone with no hassle could look at pre-built offerings — and not just from Apple, Samsung, and the like. It could open up a whole new group of phone 'manufacturers.' Of course, this comes with drawbacks, too — if you think fragmentation is bad now, imagine trying to support thousands of different hardware combinations."
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Google's Project Ara Could Bring PC-Like Hardware Ecosystem To Phones

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  • It'll be way too expensive to have a build your own phone. And it's not what the majority of consumers want. Apple has proven this time and time again. An unserviceable phone, an unserviceable tablet, and now unserviceable laptops. None of which have the simplest of battery swaps available (hell even the ram is soldered on board now in the MBPs). They've built the largest computer (mostly mobile) empire on hardware that is idiot proof and has no options. This is what consumers want. A build your own phone w
    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @11:52PM (#46820425)

      I love how Apple has shown time and time again what the majority of customers want... except of course that the iPhone market share is a fraction what Android's is. And the mac market share is less than that of the much reviled Windows 8, not to mention about a fourth that of the no longer supported, 13 year old Windows XP. Apple doesn't know what the masses want, they know what a relatively small, though highly visible, affluent, influential group want.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        I love how Apple has shown time and time again what the majority of customers want... except of course that the iPhone market share is a fraction what Android's is. And the mac market share is less than that of the much reviled Windows 8, not to mention about a fourth that of the no longer supported, 13 year old Windows XP. Apple doesn't know what the masses want, they know what a relatively small, though highly visible, affluent, influential group want.

        Apple doesn't know what they want.

        Apple knows how to market and make people without the ability to decide things for themselves think they want their products. This is Apple's core audience, the people who cant pick what they want.

        If the food service industry followed Apple's example, every restaurant would be a tarted up McDonalds and every restaurant would only serve one menu item at an inflated price. "Oh, you wanted Chicken, tough, you want beef and you're getting beef because we know what you wan

        • > Apple doesn't know what they want.

          Ummm, OK.

          > This is Apple's core audience, the people who cant pick what they want.

          Whereas Samsung's is giving people who can't pick what they want a lower cost option?

          Or is there some part of the Samsung system I'm missing here? How do I replace the camera, for instance?

          > every restaurant would be a tarted up McDonalds

          This is already true. The most visited resteraunt with table service is Applebees, followed by Olive Garden and Chili's

          Complain all you want, but t

          • You are viewpoint is only from the US market where phones appear to be free because of bundling by telecom operators. In the rest of the world, consumers use their choice to buy phones and most would laugh at a phone that does not allow changing of batteries.

          • by PopeRatzo (965947)

            Oh, Apple knows what its customers want. And the good news is that since Lawrence v Texas, it's even legal.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Apple knows how to market and make people without the ability to decide things for themselves think they want their products.

          Oh, horseshit.

          You don't choose Apple products. Fine. But don't make the assertion that people aren't capable of consciously choosing what they want and are therefore choosing Apple.

          I know people who are Directors and VPs at technical firms who use Apple products. I know people who are software engineers who use Apple. I know little old ladies who have tried alternatives and chose

        • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

          Apple knows how to market and make people without the ability to decide things for themselves think they want their products. This is Apple's core audience, the people who cant pick what they want.

          You just go right ahead with that jeramiad. I have been working with multi-platform software that has two separate groups involved in development and use. one group is for Windows users of the software, and the other is for Mac and Linux users- because the mac side is Unix, and the two can be taken care of in the same group. The knowledge hierarchy is linux and Mac neck and neck, with a nod to Linux. The Windows users? We have to teach half of them how to use the command line, and most need constant hand-holding. But one thing they do know - and its just what you write.

          • I would imagine that the increased expertise you see among users of the OS X version of your app would not correlate well with users of an iOS app. OS X and iOS are very different market segments.
            • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

              I would imagine that the increased expertise you see among users of the OS X version of your app would not correlate well with users of an iOS app. OS X and iOS are very different market segments.

              I was commentint regarding the "Mac" Comment.

              If we want to being it back to Android phone users? You are not seriously saying they are all or mostly competent? The only common thread I've found s that the lowliest Android phone user knows only one thing. He, by using android, is better and more adroit that anyone using anything put out by Apple.

              Which is sort of like the Hillbillies on reality TV expounding on how they are smarter than anyone else. While trying to do shit grade school kids do.

              You haven

      • **replying to undo wrong moderation**

      • I love how Apple has shown time and time again what the majority of customers want... except of course that the iPhone market share is a fraction what Android's is.

        Apple doesn't want market share. If customer A buys a $600 iPhone, and customers B, C, D, E, F and G buy a $100 Android phone, Android has a six times higher market share. But both have the same revenue, and you may make a guess who makes a ton more profit.

    • ... if they get out of the hardware business and reinvent themselves as a software/content company. If hardware margins diminish, they could still make money on app sales, books, music and movies.

      Current market share is what, optimistically, 25% ? That's 3/4 of the market that aren't iTunes customers.

      Tie the iOS ROM specifically to an Apple A7 and charge OEMs a fee per CPU/ROM component.

      Drivers? Develop an iOS shim over whatever Google is proposing for Android. Better yet, support os independent drivers e.g

      • Um, you do realize that while the ios market share isn't as high as Android's, Apple actually sells more smartphone handsets than any manufacturer besides Samsung [gartner.com]? So yeah, according to your logic Pepsi should just pack it up because they are #2 to Coke. No point in continuing on.
        • That was not my point at all. The question is whether, in an era of interchangeable hardware components, whether Apple can make MORE money for shareholders through their online store by selling to consumers who would never buy a premium Apple handset.

          Yes, I'm aware mac clones were tried last millennium but Apple's business model was different - today it's about the apple store.

          You mention Samsung, they continue to threaten to move away from Android because they don't get their fair share from Google Play.

        • Back in the day, there was probably a point when Apple sold more Macs than Compaq sold the equivalent over-priced high-end PCs, too.

          That wasn't the computer that The Rest Of Us were using, though.

          It's fascinating how Apple has managed to position themselves as facing a 'chief enemy' competitor in the cellphone market that is the equivalent of enemy 'IBM' back in the days of the early Mac. Apple needs a competitor that can be shape by their marketing gurus into a Emmanuel Goldstein-like being, so they can c

      • and that would be something that would be counter to apple's history.
    • Not what the masses want.

      It's REALLY not what the masses want when you consider drivers have to me made and maintained for each module... nothing like driver conflicts in your phone! I don't know that even many geeks want to go back to that model.

      • by GTRacer (234395)
        I'm completely spit-balling here, but what if each component needing drivers brought their own? I haven't seen the interconnect specs but could a firmware chip on the new component provide its own driver when connected?
        • by morgauxo (974071)

          I would love to see this, not just in mobile devices but in desktops as well! It would require some sort of standardized api that the drivers hook into. That would be tough to get across operating systems. New versions would have to always be backward compatible or risk obsoleting a bunch of hardware. That might be especially tough when a security bug is found in the API.

        • I'm completely spit-balling here, but what if each component needing drivers brought their own?

          Yes, just like each computer peripheral you bought used to come with a CD - that you had to toss and download an updated version of because your OS had changed since the CD was made... which would remain true of the OS vis-a-vis whatever driver shipped on the physical node.

          So it would be no different, you'd be constantly managing drivers.

    • by Camael (1048726) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:48AM (#46820961)

      It'll be way too expensive to have a build your own phone.

      Right now. Prices will go down assuming there is mass adoption. Remember than personal computers used to sell for 4 digit numbers in the past [wikipedia.org].

      And it's not what the majority of consumers want.

      I don't agree. A lot of users seem to value customization and personalization. Just look at how huge is the market for phone casings, icon packs, wallpapers, custom ringtones...

      Apple has proven this time and time again... They've built the largest computer (mostly mobile) empire on hardware that is idiot proof and has no options. This is what consumers want.

      You do realise that Apple users are in no way, shape or form representative of the majority of phone users. According to this report from IDC which is the most current I could find, Android took 78.1% of the 4Q 2013 market share compared to iOS' 17.6% [idc.com]. It seems safe to conclude that most if not all of these users chose to pick up Android phones over the iPhone precisely because they were dissatisfied with some aspect of Apple's product, i.e. it was not what they wanted.

      Also, one often cited reason for users switching from iPhone to Android is the lack of customisation options and/or lockdown of the devices and of the platform.

      I don't like ios and most likely will never upgrade since I do not like their new models.

      A somewhat ironic comment since your opinion is that Apple apparently knows what consumers want... with you being the exception?

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Also, one often cited reason for users switching from iPhone to Android is the lack of customisation options and/or lockdown of the devices and of the platform.

        Only when you question geeks like slashdotters. Your comment is so misrepresentative of that 78% that its close enough to being a lie to call it a lie.

        The majority of the Android market is from free phones that are GIVEN AWAY with plans, not from actual phones that can do anything useful. Stop pretending everyone owns a Galaxy or Nexus.

        • by Camael (1048726)

          Your comment is so misrepresentative of that 78% that its close enough to being a lie to call it a lie.

          I never said that reason was representative of the 78%. Nice strawman argument there.

          The majority of the Android market is from free phones that are GIVEN AWAY with plans, not from actual phones that can do anything useful.

          And your proof is? The feeling in your gut does not count.

          Stop pretending everyone owns a Galaxy or Nexus.

          Considering that I never even mentioned Galaxy or Nexus, I'm somewhat boggled

      • by Druegan (646568)

        "personal computers used to sell for 4 digit numbers in the past."

        They still do, if you want a decent one. But yes, prices have dropped.

        The only place prices *haven't* dropped, in aggregate terms, is enthusiast computing. 15 years ago, I could build something really "bleeding edge" for $4-5k.. Today, as more capable enthusiast products have cropped up.. getting to that "bleeding edge" threshold could potentially cost me 5 digits.

    • So? Must we only build things for the masses?

    • by flyneye (84093)

      Historically speaking, you will find your premise off base.
      It relys on a childlike belief, like Santa Claus or the Easter bunny, that actual support exists beyond the pimply teen behind the counter.
      This fallacy is furthered by the presence of purported service phone numbers given you in order to dupe you into not wasting aforementioned teens time.
      Here behind the number you will find an intricate time wasting system meant to direct you to eventually purchasing a new (or more) phone, manned by only a computer

    • by morgauxo (974071)

      Why does everything have to be 'what the masses want'?

      I'm pretty sure that in the US anyway more people eat Big Macs than Sushi. And yet I don't see all the Benihanas converting to McDonalds! Why can't somebody make something for a smaller, geekier market? Just look at personal computers pre-internet. That was a small, geeky market and yet a lot of people got rich off of it. Can't somebody cater to us today too?

  • This is a lousy idea for a smartphone, but it has potential as an industrial automation and robotics controller. Those are built up from lots of little modules, but the mechanical and electrical standards are decades old, and systems are too bulky. Think of this as a replacement for Arduino "shields", too.

    • Re:Wrong application (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mjwx (966435) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @12:29AM (#46820513)

      This is a lousy idea for a smartphone, but it has potential as an industrial automation and robotics controller. Those are built up from lots of little modules, but the mechanical and electrical standards are decades old, and systems are too bulky. Think of this as a replacement for Arduino "shields", too.

      Actually its the right application.

      Just not in the way most people are thinking.

      Modular design leads to modular construction. Modular construction leads to lower prices via economies of scale. Many ./er's aren't old enough to remember when computers were monolithic pieces of silicon like phones are today, a single assembly with everything soldered in and not replaceable. If something broke, fixing it was expensive, If you needed anything bespoke it cost an absolute fortune. Now everyone and their dog (well, except Apple) offers many options for any run of the mill laptop, ordering a custom machine from Dell is easy, every corner computer shop can offer you a bespoke desktop at competitive prices because components fit together on standardised connectors like DIMM, PCI-e, SATA and USB.

      As will it be with phones, Samsung, LG, et al. will simply assemble them out of component parts that simply slot together. Designing new phones will become simpler and easier. Having to produce custom radio's will be as simple as swapping a module. This is where the average person will benefit from lower prices.

      Beyond that, there will still be people who upgrade. Computer component stores have not disappeared because Acer and Toshiba sell laptops that dont need extra bits. People still upgrade their hard drives, video cards or even buy entire bespoke machines. The same it will eventually be with phones, need more storage, get a storage module. New radio technology, get the new radio module. Want a mini HDMI port... you get the idea. Not everyone will upgrade their phones... in fact the majority wont, but there will be enough people who will to justify these modules selling to the general public.

      Phone repairs, goes without saying this is definitely the way to go.

      Modular phone designs will happen, not overnight, maybe not even in the next few years but it will eventually happen.

      • The real magic would be for processor makers. Being able to reliably ship new processors to the entire mobile phone market would be a hell of a thing for ARM. Just put out a new system module...

      • Many ./er's aren't old enough to remember when computers were monolithic pieces of silicon like phones are today, a single assembly with everything soldered in and not replaceable.

        WTF? What alternative reality do you come from? Are you talking about low-end chunk-of-plastic computers like the C-64? (which, incidentally, had the full schematic diagram printed in the back of the owner's manual)

        Because every IBM-PC sold back when they were sold by big monolithic IBM had plug in ISA cards. The video, drive c

        • I think he was talking about the Big Iron days of mainframes..

          • Except those were rack upon rack of glowing hot vacuum tubes all connected by point-to-point wiring with cabinets of core and drum memory alongside. Very much individual components, with the vacuum tubes having to be replaced at least one a day. These were then replaced with racks of transistor logic, and then IC logic, all on little replaceable cards. All designed for easy maintenance and in the hope that customers would upgrade their systems.
      • by userw014 (707413)

        Most personal computers I see ARE monolithic devices - or may as well be such. Very few people I know will customize or upgrade a PC after it's purchased, outside of (perhaps) RAM or storage - and even those people are rare. Of course, there are discretionary computers used by a few people - but discretionary means that if those computers are unusable while parts are being shipped or OSes being reinstalled or whatever, the only activity impacted is discretionary activity - like gaming.

        Personal communicat

  • by rossdee (243626)

    How is that going to work with something the size of a phone?

    Unless you've got micro-waldos to fiddle with it.

  • by dltaylor (7510) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @11:44PM (#46820405)

    Except for a very few hardcore HW geeks (like me), "modular" PCs are simply not useful. Once a IT department has standardized, they don't change until the vendor stops making the base model, and the PCs are nearly always locked down to simplify support (never mind the stupidity/insanity/bullying by Microsoft that makes many upgrades have to re-authenticate). There's a small market, gamers mostly, that cycle through video cards, and more rarely, HDs/SSDs, but that's about it.

    For example, the refurbished desktop (Dell T5400) I'm using for this posting has only the motherboard and CPU left from the minimum-corporate original configuration, but that cost less than a Xeon X5570 and compatible motherboard would have cost me when I bought it, and I've filled every slot, but one.

    More likely, end users will rarely change a component, and phone vendors may find modularity useful for prototyping, but they won't bear the cost of the connectors.

    • by kyrsjo (2420192) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:57AM (#46820989)

      I suspect it's still pretty common to upgrade RAM and harddisk. Maybe many user's doesn't do it themselves, but ask their son / granddaughter / son-in-law / friendly neighbourhood geek why their computer is so slow - which often responds to upgrading the RAM. Similar when a HDD fails - you, or a friend, or the shop will repair it by swapping out the HDD.

      And most of these things are really easy in most of todays laptops - when my mother in law was complaining about exactly this, I ordered up the RAM it needed and showed her how to install it when it showed up in the mail. She managed just fine (one screw to open the cover, pop out the old board and click in the new. We did't bother with the board sitting below the keyboard).

      Similar when the HDD of my Dell Latitude failed - they sent me a new HDD in a box with a small paper slip instructing me to turn it off, remove battery and charger, undo the one screw holding the HDD and it's cover in place, slide out the old one, slide in the new one, and replace the cover + screw. Apparently Dell tought it to be easy enough for all their customers to manage.

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @11:52PM (#46820429) Journal

    It falls into a dozen parts that I can't recover in the dark. Made harder by the fact that the LED light bounced somewhere and is now under someone's foot.
    Right now, I just have 3 parts: phone, battery and back cover to worry about.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't think it's gonna be a Lego phone, but that'd be cool.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It falls into a dozen parts that I can't recover in the dark.

      With the big difference that the parts are supposed to go back together unlike when your current phone falls into a dozen parts.

      If dropping your phone is a problem common enough for you to be concerned with when buying you should probably get one with a strap that you can have around your neck.
      Let me guess, you are also that guy that spills out his coffee way more frequently than others.

    • On your new Apple phone, you'll have a little pile of fragments of sapphire to sweep up.

      What makes you think the case design on these things will be as bad as Apple's case design on the Newton? (one of Apple's last ventures into customer-openable moble-device case devices)

      The things will hold up to ordinary use and droppage, or they won't make it onto the market.

      • by scorp1us (235526)

        Well, how much of your phone should be packaging? If you wrap your components in a case (which you have to do) then have a case around the baseboard and those components, you now have two layers of casing, and you're going to be generating millimeters of additional size all around. If you want a drop-survivable shell, you add more millimeters on top of that. Remember, it's still has to fit in your pocket.

        The Nexus 5 and iPhone are only so small because it's all permanently fixed together, needing only one c

  • There will probably be a market for this in the tech enthusiast. But it will be highly unlikely to go mainstream. Mainstream (iphone 5s) is 7.6mm thick and weighs. According to http://motorolaara.com/2013/10... [motorolaara.com] it is probably about 9.3mm - effectively as chunky as a 2 year old device.

    What may evolve from this is specialist hardware and specialist configurations.

    Some interesting spin-off technologies might be high speed bus interconnects (thunderbolt 2), modular and novel hardware configs (3d scanning - p

  • Sounds great but what about the price. For sure, it is not cheap than usual smartphone that we see in the market.
    • by N3x)( (1722680)
      As they are targeting this phone specifically at the poor featurephone users i'm sure no one in google headquarters has given this any thought at all.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @12:40AM (#46820559) Journal
    I have a cellphone. It is an Applie iPhone 3GS I got two years ago as a free upgrade from my flip phone.It works fine. My wife and daughter have Samsung Galaxy 3. They work. We can call each other and text each other, and if we have time, wecan play games on them and occasionally listen to music. Will this new device help that? Not really, not for FREE, which is what we paid for our phones. Ara is a solution to a problem we don't (and no one I know) has.
    • I don't know about you,but I hardly ever use the camera on my phone. Or any of the phones I've used. I would happily just not have a camera in the phone at all...

      • So, you'd be willing to pay extra to not have a phone? As I noted, we got those phones for FREE. They work fine. They're phones. They have cameras. I think I've used my phone camera, maybe 3 times in 2 years - so, I dig what you're saying. I couldn't care less if it had a phone or not. On the three occasions I needed one it was nice to have, but yes, I could live without it. But I got it for FREE. I'm not going to pay to not have one...
        • So you're saying you don't know anyone that doesn't have access to free, unsubsidized iPhones and Galaxies S3, and don't understand why anyone would ever need anything different?

          1) Please tell us your cell phone carrier that gives away free unsubsidized smartphones, and your subscription plan.
          2) Different people have different wants and needs, and not all people are like you. This shouldn't need explaining.

  • Something that already exists on the PC. You can trivially boot up any operating system you want on any PC and the basic things like the display and the input devices will just work.
    This is because the PC platform not only has certain basic hardware components standardised, but also because there are interfaces to enumerate the hardware you have. Once you have your kernel in memory and running, it can simply look for the hardware and access the hardware accordingly.

    On ARM there is no such thing as a PCI bus

    • by Namarrgon (105036)

      Turns out, there already exists such a thing. ARA will use UniPro [wikipedia.org], a layered, low-power, scalable bus protocol capable of up to 24Gbps.

      • by Casandro (751346)

        Yes and so is USB, the question is, will the controllers for it be the same?
        There is some pressure for such standards from the ARM-hosting crowd, since ARM based servers would fill a very interesting niche in the market.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      ... there isn't one for your ARM devices, it certainly could be built. Its not like PCIand bus enumeration is exclusive to x86, I've built it into arduino devices for instance.

    • Something that already exists on the PC. You can trivially boot up any operating system you want on any PC and the basic things like the display and the input devices will just work.

      iPhone users can trivially boot up any operating system they want; it's called iOS. Android phone users can trivially boot up any operating system they want; it's called Android. How many people want to boot up two operating systems?

      • by Casandro (751346)

        Well but iOS for the iPhone x is a different image than iOS for the iPhone y. The same goes for Android. That's why the manufacturer decides which devices get updates and which don't.

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @01:12AM (#46820671) Homepage

    From TFS: "Now that Google's modular phone effort, Project Ara, looks a bit less like vaporware"

    Wait... what hallucinogenics is "anymous reader" overdosing on to come to the conclusion that Project Ara "looks a bit less like vaporware"? It's nothing but a bunch of sketches, pretty graphics, cheap models, and vague design concepts. It's practically the very effin' definition of vaporware.

    • by Zuriel (1760072)

      Google is sure enough that it'll come to market to announce a release date. A vague one, true, but it's now an upcoming product rather than a research project that may or may not go somewhere.

      They've released a Module Developer's Kit and held a developer's conference. They have prototype hardware and a version of Android that supports it due mid-May.

      I'm not sure what else they can do besides actually sell you the finished product.

      • Google is sure enough that it'll come to market to announce a release date. A vague one, true, but it's now an upcoming product rather than a research project that may or may not go somewhere.

        They've released a Module Developer's Kit and held a developer's conference. They have prototype hardware and a version of Android that supports it due mid-May.

        Yeah, it's not like they've created projects and products a dozen times before that looked like the Real Thing - only to languish in development hell for months

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      With a beta released developers kit complete? At least it's Vapourware that is being worked on.

  • by atari2600a (1892574) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @01:14AM (#46820677)
    It's not going to be LIKE the PC ecosystem; it IS the PC ecosystem, just with new players. 10 years from now your Replicators, laptops & server clusters are all going to be sporting Ara-derived chassis. You heard it here first, kids. Why deal with Intel & IBM's bullshit when you have a architecture-agnostic interface ready to go? A computer is the result of an accumulation of standards & as someone that's taken a decades-long generalistic approach to the industry, this IS the new standard. Maybe not in its initial public incarnation, but 2.0'll hit it of just like Android 2.0 took over mobile software.
  • TFA doesn't explain what would motivate entrepreneurs to invest in this concept. Suppose you have a great idea for a module- are you willing to design & fabricate it for an unknown number of buyers? Not as easy as selling an app for a known market of millions.

    • by N3x)( (1722680)
      Well for starters this is the first time ever that a small company is even capable of building mobile phone parts without bending over for the big mobile phone makers. If I can design a small battery for instance thats way better than the stock batteries but somewhat more expensive I could easily have thousands of customers which would be fine for a small company but not get millions of customers which is a must for a big company.
  • So enthusiasts can build liquid-cooled cellphones that are overclocked? With windowed cases and cabling with LED racer lights running up and down them? What are the graphic card options?

  • so much negativity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by renzhi (2216300) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:20AM (#46821061)

    WTF? Where is the geek spirit in this /. crowd? When a manufacturer releases a phone with battery soldered, everyone's complaining. When a laptop manufacturer releases a laptop that you can't upgrade, complaining again. Now that people are putting effort to allow you to custom your mobile device till your heart bleeds, you are complaining again.

    I had enough of phones that I have to throw away because of one very small, and not even the most important, component went bad, and I can't do anything. And it's not worth repairing coz the repair cost is almost as high, or even higher, than buying a new phone. What a fucking waste of resources.

    Give me this modular design anyday. I've been waiting for someone to do this for laptop and mobile phone for a decade. Can't come soon enough.

    Just release the design, release the interface, make it so open that anyone on the planet can manufacture components without huge license cost, and let the market decide. I'm sure there will a lot of entrepreneurial folks who will set up shop to assemble this into a nice package for your customization. Just like the PC era. Bring it on. There will be a lot of new applications. Talk about wearables? Wait till you have all these components that you can assemble the way you like it.

    • by swb (14022)

      I think its also a mistake to look at this as just a modular phone ecosystem. Just because the pieces as presented fit together in a phone doesn't mean the concept couldn't be extended to other devices.

      I think you now have an ecosystem that would include phones, tablets and probably cross over into laptops and other devices currently using embedded "small computer" environments like TVs, set top boxes, etc.

      Tablets are an automatic extension of the idea because they're just big phones in most cases. Set to

    • by Anonymous Coward

      WTF? Where is the geek spirit in this /. crowd? When a manufacturer releases a phone with battery soldered, everyone's complaining. When a laptop manufacturer releases a laptop that you can't upgrade, complaining again. Now that people are putting effort to allow you to custom your mobile device till your heart bleeds, you are complaining again.

      It's not the same people complaining. This isn't some kind of Borg mind you are dealing with. Slashdot has a very diverse group of people.

    • I'm sure there will a lot of entrepreneurial folks who will set up shop to assemble this into a nice package for your customization. Just like the PC era.

      Christ almighty, I can't imagine a worse thing to happen. Back in the day, probably 90% of my time spent helping less tech oriented people with their computers was spent fixing the screwups of those fly-by-night white box "entrepreneurial folks"... (Maybe one out of ten was actually anything even vaguely resembling competent.) Everything from fixing up

  • If it runs some version of desktop Linux, this could be an awesome desktop. With a built-in UPS and a backup 3G network connection. You'd never shut it down because it's so focused on power savings that it's not really worth it. It would run off a standard USB charger.

    It would be great if you could upgrade the CPU and 3D graphics to something tablet or desktop-ish. I could envision a chassis/case that has the standard Project Ara backplane, but mounted below a fan. Bonus points if you can overclock the CPU.

  • From 2006 [slashdot.org]: "With laptops becoming more modular, and the use of mini PCI or PCI express cards for most of the components, are we going to start to see more third party upgrade options for laptops ? [...] Are we going to soon be able to easily upgrade the processors in the laptops as well?"

    Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be able to plug a logic analyzer or ham radio module into my smartphone, but I can't see why the mass market would tolerate the extra cost, weight and failure modes of a modular phone.
  • I want Universal Firmware - or at least universal to the CPU architecture (ARM, MIPS etc.). It could be supported right now if Android were to make Kernel Device Trees [devicetree.org] required or if we had *gasp* discoverable busses as we do on the PC.

    Then we would be able to have Android or Linux distributions for mobile like we have Linux distributions for the PC. I could buy all kinds of interesting devices from China, and know that I will be able to upgrade them with my favourite "distro" without having to hack about w

  • From system point of view there wouldn't be any complications with different hardware combinations. Linux handled the multi-core transition seemlessly, I have no doubt it will handle the Phonebloks too. However I think that there is a way to go for the Apps and the android.
  • Once again Google proves that it's not a hardware company - they just have too much money to throw around. A modular phone is the dumbest idea I've ever heard of. Despite what they may claim, it'll be larger and more fragile that a non-mobile phone with the same capabilities.

    As for Google hardware in general, remember how well they did w/ Motorola Mobility? It also makes me sad to think of how many robotics companies they've bought. Robots are a mix of hardware and software, and Google will never get it rig

  • Let me just say, I'm certain that I don't want to have to choose every component of my phone, at any level of granularity less than "the whole phone", and then assemble it, do maintenance on it, troubleshoot why some piece of third-party software isn't working with my particular mix of phone parts.

    You're imagining a system where everything 'just works' for a gigantic ecosystem that somehow increases your choices and simultaneously decreases the cost to get exactly the options YOU want. It's not going to ha

  • I know manufacturers are looking for the next big gravy train they can count on to pad out revenues and guarantee executive profits.

    But I see this as being niche at best, and completely undesirable at worst.

    It's my freaking phone. I don't want to be swapping out video cards and tweaking it.

    I, for one, will not be interested in this. And I predict a very tiny amount of people ever will.

  • I like the hard keyboard on my droid4. I'm really terrible with the onscreen touchboards. Really, really terrible. Which makes onscreen touchboards not good for work emails, posting in web forums, etc. The hard keyboard makes me able to type anything at all. As the market seems to be moving away from built-in keyboards, a optional, modular hard keyboard, would be great for those of us that need them, without forcing them onto the larger market public, or to be stuck with an otherwise tremendously mediocre s

  • WIth Google proposing to come out with a phone, is there any one realizing that one next step could be the Google Bank. Google may create a bitcoin type of operation or a virutal bank in the cloud, (line ING).

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