When Google first announced its intention to create and market the world's first modular smartphone, scepticism was rife.Project ARA is currently focused on launching in Buenos Aires due to the country's extremely heavy reliance on mobile communications (due to exceptionally poor landline networks) Whilst the concept of an individually customisable phone is enticing, would a modular phone be able to deliver the kind of performance that we've come to expect from our palm-sized computers?
As further details have emerged following the initial concepts, the device is beginning to look more promising. The allure of the Google name has drawn plenty of third party developers in, and their hot-swappable modules are beginning to come to light (We'll detail some of them in a moment.)
Reports from Mobile World Congress 2015 aren't very illuminating. The prototype wasn't demonstrated in any meaningful way – in fact it wasn't even turned on. The prototype was largely there to show how the different modules fit together.
Project Ara: Almost infinite configurations.
The range of plug in modules available for Google's newest baby is impressive. The Project ARA prototype is comparable in size to the Google Nexus 6, albeit slightly smaller. The Google owned hardware is being developed by Yezz, a relatively small mobile manufacturer, and their logo and name appears prominently on the first party modules that were being showcased. Memory expansions, game controller attachments and what seemed to be a contactless payment device bearing the text “Pay with Yezz” were all on show.
But more interesting are the third party modules that have since come to light.
Sennheiser have announced that they are working on “Amphion” an expansion that will bring top quality audio to your phone.
Toshiba have unveiled a 2mp front camera module as well as two rear camera modules, available in 13mp and 5mp flavours which they say will be available in 2016.
But modular technology doesn't stop there…
Modular technology – case in point
As the modular phone idea has been building steam, Californian company Nexpaq has launched a Kickstarter page for their Nexpaq phone case.
Due for delivery to backers in Jan 2016, and currently only in production for Iphone 6 and Galaxy S5 phones, the modular case allows users to select the additional components they want most and simply plug them into the Nexpaq unit.
Available modules include the ever handy battery modules and flashlight, as well as more specialised components like a temperature and humidity detector, air quality detector and amplified speaker. For users who never seem to have enough storage, the Nexpaq will give you the ability to add storage modules from extra SD card slots to 64gb solid state storage devices.