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Motorola Introduces Project Ara, A Modular Smartphone Hardware Platform Like PhoneBloks

motorola ara1

Remember Phonebloks? It was the modular smartphone project idea that wanted to build phones that could be easily upgraded using modules. The idea was essentially to give users the option to upgrade the hardware in their phones as they need, without having to buy a new phone or throw their current phone away. If a phone were made up of modules for the charging port, processor, display, camera, etc., they could upgrade individual pieces to keep their phones current, powerful, and relevant.

So guess what? Motorola has been working on a similar project for a year and it’s called Project Ara. In other words, Motorola is going to try to bring the concept of Phonebloks, which most people thought was unattainable and a dream, to life. 

With Project Ara, Motorola wants to create a free, open hardware platform made up of modules. The thought behind modular design, is that you can “lower barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines.” From a consumer standpoint, modular design would let you decide what your phone does, change how it looks, how much it costs, and how long you’ll want to keep it.

Did you want to upgrade the display from 720p to 1080p? Do it. Did you want to upgrade from a 8MP camera to a 13MP shooter with OIS? Do it. But remember, that you can upgrade individual parts rather than having to worry about buying a new phone with those new specs.

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Over the next few months we’ll learn a lot more about Ara as Motorola works closely with Phonebloks and “research scouts” to see how people make decisions. They already have some rough designs, which we’ve featured here, but I get the feeling we’ll all want to follow closely and see where this can go.

Via:  Motorola | Project Ara Research Scouts

  • feztheforeigner

    Can we swap out the display to combine our phones and tablets?

  • Viet Hoang-Tran

    can I still get my keyboard and build a droid 5? haha

  • calculatorwatch

    Would be cool to have multiple battery blocks and you could switch one out while the phone runs on the other. Then you could get them for pretty cheap and have a few on the charger at all times so you never have to worry about charging your phone.

  • Nam
  • Sporttster

    Should be called ‘Project Lego’…..who wants a Lego phone?!?

  • Paul

    So if you drop it, “some assembly required”?

  • Franklin Ramsey

    Motorola Nexus???

  • Chris Amaya

    As an Apple user…..Your move apple….

  • CivilDroid

    According to the clocks on the phones we wont see it until December of 2052 anyway…..
    HYPEBEAST for years!

  • Nizam Miah

    This is the Nikola Tesla of Thomas Edison, apple has been letting us down recently, and i’m happy to see my favourite phone brand support something like this.

  • Nizam Miah

    I’m glad that there are companies taking this concept seriously. Motorola has the ability to make this come true, this is true innovation. If this does happen, consider my name on the pre-order list.

  • carluverdrm2004

    Me and a group of friends were at lunch the other day talking about Phonebloks and how great of an idea that it is, but also how most companies wouldn’t want to invest in such a product because they want to sell THEIR products. Do you think this is because Motorola is owned by Google, and Google can do whatever they want?

  • Morlok8k

    Keyboard Module!

  • Amreez Hussain

    A physical qwerty keyboard landscape slider just like my OG droid and current specs and I’m onboard. Cud be the Droid 5 we have all been waiting for…. Impatiently

  • NexusMan

    If anyone could pull this off it would be Motorola.

  • joejoe5709

    Honestly? Let’s start with bringing back SD Cards and replaceable batteries. It’s an easy step to add extra harddrive space. From there if I were able to pop in a better processor, extra RAM, etc then that’s an extra bonus.

  • Brandon Golway

    Wow this is nuts. I loved the PhoneBloks idea but read all the time that it would probably be impossible to engineer. I was literally reading an article yesterday that pretty much said that PhoneBloks was a pipe dream and would probably never happen just because it would be hard to get all manufacturers in on it, software to work with it, and just to simply get the pieces to to fit tightly on the phone itself. I had all but given up hope and then the first thing I see in my news feed it that Motorola has made it a reality! Excuse me while I pick up jaw up from the floor!

  • Chris


    interesting concept how the actual software (OS, apps etc) will handle the changes is the question.

    what about dual booting OS’s ? you’ll think we would ever see such a thing?

  • Elliot Kotis

    Seems Motorola is now the Innovation in smartphones part of Google. Nexus is dying I think 🙁

  • mgamerz

    Imagine trying to build a kernel for that.
    I still don’t believe it will happen.

  • This is the most exciting phone announcement I’ve seen in years.

    • Chris

      as much as some of us hate the iPhone, I think the iPhone was one of the most biggest announcements in cellular phone history. It paved the way to how we use phones today. Sure others came before it, but how we interact with the phones is what changed it.

      • M3D1T8R

        “Most biggest”, eh?

  • Dave12308

    Motorola can’t even update hardware with known, consistent specs. Can’t see how this is going to go well, at all.

    • Adrynalyne

      User experience trumps specs.

  • disqus_3u68qvhh53

    I wonder what level of customization you can go at… such as will it let you add a thumb pad & button blocks to allow you some retro fun on the cheap & remove them shortly afterwards to resume your daily life on it.

  • Oh Motorola/Google, how I adore you both 🙂

  • Jarred Sutherland

    I think this is cool, but I see some limiting factors. Just like when Intel or AMD push their upgrade cycle, you end up usually needing a new CPU socket design. How does this overcome those issues? Not only that, you are still going to be locked into specific CPUs due to the way they can be designed. Such as extra instruction sets in one CPU vs another brand of CPU.I see this being of benefit for smaller things such as cameras, but a modular design for major upgrades like CPU seem like it will be more problematic than it’s worth.

    • Menger40

      A SoC can include your CPU, RAM, power management, and some other components all in one. Replacing the SoC in a device like this could be sort of like replacing your CPU, RAM, and a good portion of what’s on your motherboard. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System_on_a_chip

      • Jarred Sutherland

        Still though, the pinouts can and do change when new features are added. I am just curious as to how they will tackle this problem. It’s more than a camera or something along those lines which generally do not have drastic changes. SoC’s can have huge feature changes, power requirement changes, etc. Would be cool to be a fly on the wall in those meetings to see how its addressed.

  • Razma

    Samsung will announce in 2 weeks that they are also working on a similar concept and will rush it to market so they can claim that they were the first to come out with it.

    • Jason Tsujimura

      Then LG will announce they are the first.

      • trixnkix637

        Apple will say they’ve had the patent for years & sue Samsung & LG & Motorola.

  • David

    I really like the concept. While appearance isn’t #1 on my list, it is in the top 5, and that thing might be ugly enough to keep me from getting it – might be.

    • epps720

      As long as the front looks good this really won’t matter to me. The majority of people use a case on their phone, so the back really shouldn’t be that much of an issue.

    • Menger40

      If this ever comes to market, they better release a case for it that makes it look more like a normal phone. It could also serve the purpose of keeping all your expensive components from getting knocked off if the phone gets dropped.

  • el oso borracho

    No thanks. No one here can deny they love getting a new device. Eliminating that isn’t going to be a strong market move. Further, phones are used non-stop every day. There is wear and tear. Short of big clunky cases, they get beat up over time, and we’re always ready and excited for something new; not super tied and sentimental and really wishing we could just speed up the same handset we’ve had for 3 years or “I love it so much, if only the I had a little more ram I’d never have to change!” It’s counter to the gadget novelty drive.

    • Chachacha

      You can’t say that everyone love getting new devices. That’s generalization, you can’t do that, it’s totally imprecise. I could live my entire life with the same cellphone because I only make calls and send messages. There are those who are happy with what they have ^^

      • el oso borracho

        I can generalize, I’m allowed. It’s statistical precision that matters, and I’m referring to the statistical majority. It also seems suspect that you frequent and comment on a smart phone website and only ever make calls and send messages. Do you have a smart phone? You wouldn’t need one for that – or news about smart phones, since you are happy with that feature set for life.
        That said, people are happy with what they have but still have an innate attraction to novelty and new things. Curiosity, societal/peer trends, social status, boredom, fresh ideas, new features – innovation is driven by the same personality aspects that crave something new. That defines the majority, and in turn our culture.

  • I just have to say this. A guy comes up with the idea of phonebloks and most people on this site and others said it was a dumb idea and there is no way it was going to happen. Two months later Motorola has some fancy pictures and press renders and everyone loses their mind and say “OMG INNOVATION!” over the exact same thing. smh

    • Sqube

      It might be because it’s a combination of Motorola and Google going for it. To be honest though, I don’t even remember hearing about Phonebloks. Kudos to those guys for coming up with the idea.

      • Here’s the thing, a lot of true great ideas are because of one or a couple of people. Facebook, twitter, Google, Apple (back in the day), Instagram, Cynaogen, etc. Those are the types of people that deserve praise and it’s sad that the tech community as a whole bashed the guy behind phonebloks for wanting to bring this idea to light. But here comes Google and Motorola with money and a strong base wanting to do the same thing and now the tech community as a whole are pooping themselves.

        • Trent Callahan

          Motorola and Google have been working on the PhoneBloks project with them. Stop being cynical.

    • Chris

      because its motorolla. people get scared and frightened over something they don’t know.

    • radit

      If you watch the new phonebloks video the guy even says that moto has been working on the same idea in house for over a year, so it wasn’t even really his idea.

      • That is hind sight. We the readers, when the original phonebloks video came out, had no clue someone or some company had this in the works.

  • Wyatt Neal

    See these things are awesome, but I really think they are geared more towards the prototyping development at places like Moto. This would give them the ability to start swapping in new hardware to tried and true components so they could test and get things out to the manufacturing floor faster. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see it in consumer space, but I can’t see that as the ultimate target.