Google Project Ara: Does Anyone Want or Need Modular Phones?

On its surface, ’s seems pretty interesting: an integrated smart phone frame supporting modular components that aims to make handsets simpler and cheaper to make and easier for customers to choose, customize, fix and upgrade. What’s not to like? Google is certainly behind the idea, as its self-congratulatory announcements and blog postings attest. Plus, the rash of largely positive media stories on the effort suggests that the company’s PR organization doesn’t plan to make the same missteps with that it did with .

But while there may be dumber ideas than Project Ara in the tech industry, it’s hard to think of one offhand. Why? Because it is largely a visionary engineering strategy that’s been tactically retrofitted to appear beneficial to consumers. That’s not terribly unusual in the IT industry, but Google goes a step further—claiming to have solved with technology problems that aren’t particularly technical so much as they are cultural. As a result, the biggest challenge Project Ara faces is that it asks smart phone manufacturers to discard decades of competitive positioning and customers to abandon years of personal preferences. All for the sake of Google-determined and defined manufacturing efficiencies. In what world will that idea fly?

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NOTE: This column was originally published in the .


  1. This article sounds like it was written by a scared CEO of a cell phone company. Google is taking steps to make cell phones more user friendly on a new level at the expense of the status quo that’s more beneficial for big companies involved with the current smartphone market. Things change, markets shift, it’s just the way things go. I’m excited for some change personally.

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    • I agree. Google isn’t asking phone manufacturers to change anything, if anything it is telling manufacturers to watch out. If Ara becomes successful it will be a huge boost to hardware manufacturers. If Ara becomes a hit and starts to sell 10M units/year then it will be taking units from cell phone manufacturers. I think, for right now at least, that Ara will be fairly popular, and will be a perfect solution to some people. I think it will be a few years till everything gets ironed out with the modular store, and technology so that the phones are thin, and long battery life. When that happens current cell phone manufacturers will definately have to watch out.

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  2. Wow rarely have I read such blatant bias. Maybe it is just me but I fail to see how the slight updates to devices with technology that is already old hat a month after release benefits the consumer. It is clear this was a puff piece written to scare the uninformed. Beyond simple choice ara will allow modules that would never make it to mainstream devices.

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