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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.

motorola ara2

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.

  • Kevin

    so if you drop it, does it just break into 15 pieces that you have to find spread around the floor?

    • Andy Stetson

      Then you can put it back together in a different order and swap the pieces around! it’s like having to rebuild legos after you drop them. after a while, it’s not really a hassle anymore 😉

      • Kevin

        cant wait!!!!

    • Menger40

      That’s a good point. If any phone ever needed a case, this would be it.

  • Rich

    I would buy one of these for sure… ugly or not…

  • BobbyG

    Been waiting for “custom” phones, motomaker was step 1, this is step 2. I’d love to be able to head to manufacturers site and chose every aspect of a phone. Basically the same way I can build a PC or laptop.

  • enigmaco

    Anybody want to bet it’ll never show up on Verizon…. Love the concept power to the users.

  • interstellarmind

    The guy who came up with Phonebloks got a lot of hate from would-be engineers on how implausible this concept would be.

    Curious: are those same people gonna nay say Motorola, too?

    Looking forward to Project Ara!!

    • psuturtle

      The guy that came up with phoneblocks got a lot of hate from ACTUAL engineers….ones that know what the roadblocks are to bring a concept like that from the drawing board to prototype to production. There was certainly merit to the idea, and now there’s a company that seems to be behind it with enough money to try to push through some of those roadblocks. But that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal yet. My guess is most tech nerds aren’t going to be happy with the end product because of the likely limitations (size, physical limitations, electrical limitations, software limitations, etc.). But they might make enough breakthroughs to put out a usable product.

      Also, it’s not hard to nay-say a company that lost hundreds of millions of dollars over the last couple of years. Doesn’t mean they can’t innovate, but it says a lot about the market and their business decisions.

      • interstellarmind

        You are the type of guy/gal that laughed at the Wright brothers.

        Just face it. All those people who trashed on the Phoneblok’s guy now have to eat crow.

        • psuturtle

          And you are the type of person that has zero clue about product development. This isn’t bringing a new technology to light…it’s trying to innovate on the design/implementation of an existing product and architecture. Two completely separate genres.

          I never said what they are trying is impossible…I actually think it’s an interesting idea (though it’s not new…it’s been tried in PCs years ago). But I think most people will lose interest once they get a look at something that works and has even half the function the designers are dreaming about. Not to mention the whole concept is going in a direction that’s completely opposite to what every other similar tech commodity industry is going. Which gets into an entire new set of roadblocks (that I don’t think they’ll solve) in trying to get the rest of the industry to go along with them. Profit margins are still way too good in this industry, and companies will continue to protect that.

  • Razma

    Apple will come out with this in 5 years and it will be ‘revolutionary’!……

    • Jeff

      And ‘magical’.

  • Malcolm Love

    I’m interested to see how this works, but I don’t know if I’d jump into it. At least not until they get kinks worked out. I’m assuming if you got a phone from Moto that was modular they would (at least I would hope) all have similar software or drivers needed. Not too sure I’m digging that block look either, altho I guess a case could fix that.

    • Kevin

      i think there’d have to be some sort of exterior case, otherwise if you drop it, you’ve got a little puzzle to reassemble.

      • Malcolm Love

        Seems kinda fun actually. it’s like 52 card pickup!

        • Chris

          unless you drop it down a storm drain/gutter…

          • Malcolm Love

            I could see so many jokes…OK WHO TOOK MY FRIKEN CAMERA!

  • bogy25

    Motorola making it? I won’t even consider buying then – I have the RAZR MAXX HD and it is a total fail – I loved the OG Droid and was hooked after that phone. Sorry Moto…you suck now.

    • Suralin

      Motorola making it is the best thing that has ever happened. The new Droid line of phones are pretty good and the Moto X is the true successor of Motorola’s OG Droid.

  • ddevito

    It’ll never be on Verizon

  • nexucks

    Too bad you won’t be able to change parts of the Nexus 5 after the initial hype wears off and everyone realizes they bought a mediocre device and switched carriers for no reason.

    • spark

      Hi, Verizon employee

      • Razma

        more like a verizon customer in denial……….I am too 🙁

    • Trent Callahan

      Mediocre? It’s software done well, with specs to back it up.

  • J Dub

    This will be a battery freaking monster. All of those connections sucking up power. This is why they make SoC now. To conserve power.

  • rahlquist

    This is a nice evolutionary step. One I have been blathering about for years. This essentially makes a phone like a PC. The concept is simple, cuts back on industrial waste, and lowers manufacturing costs. It could also lower repair costs and provide users with a simpler way to get their device fixed. All because only the deficient parts can be replaced. For example take a phone with a sub 720p display (say 480×800). For entry level, dual core cpu module with 512M ram and 8GB flash. Gpu with no 3d. Standard audio. Camera, the 5Mp please. 1800mah battery. Single band radio for just the carrier you need and 802.11g wifi and no Bluetooth. This device could sell for $80 without a contract, similar ones do today.

    Then in 6 months LTE Super Max+ gets released in your area, drop say $50 and a new radio is in your hands.

    Not saying this is gonna be an easy design for Moto, but it will be worth billions if it works.

  • Angeline Joseph

    Very good idea and also something interesting


  • flosserelli

    If Motorola brings this to market, it will be a game changer.

  • Jeff

    I want one, even if I won’t use it as a phone.

  • HarshaMoto

    Haters Start Hating Motorola

  • trumpet444

    Bet it won’t be on Verizon

    • flosserelli

      If so, then neither will I. And I bet a ton of other subscribers will jump ship.

      • lookatmyfunnyusername

        You’re a fool if you believe people are going to leave because they don’t have this phone. Not defending verizon but the number of increasing subscribers show that most people don’t care about having the best phone or being able to use a smartphone as the way it was meant to be, mobile and not tethered to wifi.

        • Wyatt Neal

          I think plenty of people are going to leave … but I don’t think it’s going to be enough to cause a blip on the VZW radar.

        • Adrynalyne

          The number of increasing subscribers show you that some people (not all) have different values than others. It does not mean people will not leave for this device.

          • lookatmyfunnyusername

            He said a ton.

          • Adrynalyne

            So 10 (or less) fat people.

    • Walter Partlo

      Not so fast.. 😉

      • Adrynalyne


        A real advert would have at least 75% more Verizon logos.

        • Walter Partlo

          True, though I do like them on the cat’s glasses.

  • Jon

    I’m just not into the idea at all. I can imagine dropping my phone and it shattering into 10 pieces. I just want a well built phone that’s affordable and I’m happy to buy a new one every year. This is not something I would be down for.

    • Z

      I would wait to judge.. You don’t even know anything about how it will be put together and you are already assuming it will shatter into 10 pieces if dropped. I doubt they are that stupid, it’s probably not that easy to put together and take apart.

    • elemeno

      Agree. Electronics are commodities. I haven’t “upgraded” a computer in almost 15 years. Just buy new when the old one gets sluggish.

  • This is not about upgrading your phone, it’s about experimenting with hardware. If you want to try out new hardware all the time that hasn’t come out on in a full fledged phone yet, this is for you. But expect some serious trade-offs. So it’s not going to be for everyone.

    • guesswhat

      y not? imagine a company that makes peripherals like speakers/amplifiers/wifi chips/batteries (like sony/nxp/broadcomm ..) releases a new module and puts it on hardware marketplace without waiting for oems to pick there IC and include it in there design ..consumer might decide he wants louder speakers/camera with more mega pixels than what comes onboard he can just decide to buy it and upgrade his phone on the fly..this is game changing if moto can pull this off, and this is not experimental for some geeks this is wholly consumer oriented project ..(people said similar things when app store were getting launched) ..

      • It’s not about what you can imagine, it’s about what works. This is a great idea and I love it, but the average person is not going to buy this just as the average person doesn’t build their own PC. Plus if you want the best phone in the smallest package a sealed case is always going to be better. You have to pay a price in size and weight for modularity, not to mention cost.

  • guesswhat

    woww ..this is amazing ..after some research I found that this project is led by none other than regina dugan ..EX darpa cheif she has long list of game changing achevements/innovation in her name ..Im really confident that moto/google can pull this off

  • Capt. Crunch

    I’ve been waiting for the day when I could build my smartphone like I built my PC, and it finally looks like that day will come. I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner

  • samari711
  • Jason B

    For now, this could be limited to display and main flash memory upgrades as those are usually discrete solutions that don’t require much meddling internally. Obviously, you need standardized connectors/connections between differing displays, with lower resolution displays using less pins on the connector than the higher ones (displays usually use ribbon connections currently). Provisions need to be in place to allow the OS to switch between resolutions, so a much more flexible display driver will be needed.

    Of course, the main flash memory will already be partitioned and ready to go with the system pre-installed. The mainboard/motherboard will just need the appropriate connections in a standard connector to allow switching modules.

    Still, we need better batteries. It’s nice when manufacturers switch manufacturing nodes and do a die shrink, but those come very slowly. They do tend to reduce power consumption drastically, but yields are almost always low during a node switch, so availability is an issue there too (and cost). Battery tech needs to move at a faster rate, IMO.

  • Chris

    Way more useful than curved display phones!!

  • ConCal

    This will either be an epic failure or an epic success.

    • j

      Failure for now.. any hardware engineer till tell you this is obviously this is a pipe dream.

      • The fact that Motorola has been working on it for a year should obviously tell you that it’s not a dream. Pessimist.

        • Weber

          Especially if it’s made by one manufacturer that can support it. I’m no engineer, but if you can do it with computers, why not a small, mobile computer? A smartphone is basically the same thing.

          • Adrynalyne

            Two words:

            Carrier control.

            I could see this working in unlocked markets though.

          • Weber

            I can see that being a huge problem. Carriers won’t be making the money on the upgrades without wanting control over them. Want a new, 13 MP camera with OIS? That’s cool, buy it from us at VZW so all your pics can have a 4GLTE checkmark VZW watermark on them (to capture the special moments)

          • … I don’t know about that logic, but thanks for the support 🙂 lol

          • Weber

            Like I said, I’m no engineer. I’m but a lowly dreamer that was on a GNex for way too long, begging for more RAM.

  • Neil Fujiwara

    Game changer, I think we have reached a point where hardware has plateaued. It gives consumers the opportunity to upgrade the components that they find most important. And here we go!

  • Guys, guys, GUYS!!! Sorry to hi-jack this article, buuuuuutt….ask me some questions about the N5!!!! But they can only be questions that could be answered if someone happened to have the phone in hand (so not like “when’s it going to be released?”). I’m not saying my roommate found one left in a bathroom in SF or anything 😉 😉 …but…if you ask me questions, I just might be able to get answers for you 🙂 I need good questions to ask!

    So far my pending questions are:
    – do you notice anything new off the bat?
    – do you see any messaging apps other than Hangouts?
    – how’s the new camera?

    I know we already know almost everything there is to know about this phone, but I’m sure there are still some good questions out there that we could get answered! 🙂

    • Philip J. Fry

      Are you serious? If so, googles on a whole new level of trolling.

    • Are there really no questions left to ask? If you had one in your hand right now, what would you want to know?

    • Kal5el

      How’s the camera?

      • Kal5el

        Nm, I see it’s pending.

    • Are there really no questions left to ask? Or is everyone just in bed 🙂 haha. Actually I’m headed to bed too, so ask away and I’ll see what I can find out tomorrow morning (I’m sure you east-coasters will be up looong before me, so it might take a little time to get things answered). Also my roommate is really busy with work this week but hopefully he’ll have some time to help answer questions with his…um…predictions about KitKat and the N5 🙂 🙂

  • Stephen Cox

    Oh please, Motorola, for the love of god, make an attachable sliding keyboard for this thing.

  • jmsbwmn

    K, I really like this idea. Count me in as customer #1 if this ever comes to market. 🙂

  • Lee McLaurin

    I hope it works if only because you have people who claim to “understand engineering” who claim that could never work because THEY believe it’s impossible. Gawd I hope Motorola makes this work just to shut up some people who “hate ideas guys”.

    • interstellarmind

      My thoughts exactly.

    • elemeno

      I’ve had some pointy-haired bosses like you. It must be nice to live in a world where clinging to ignorance keeps the laws of physics away.

      • Lee McLaurin

        That’s EXACTLY why I’m a boss and you’re an employee. Also why you would NEVER work for Motorola or Google on a project like this.

  • elemeno

    April fools? The overhead involved in the interconnect alone will make the thing huge and power hungry. Look at any teardown of any consumer electronics device. How are you going to partition hardware like this? There must be some engineering axiom somewhere that states that Size/Weight/Power (SWaP) are at odds with customizability.

    If they can pull it off then my head asplode. In the meantime, I’m skeptical.

    • Render

      Easy…you connect a primary set of devices to the base circuit board (display, initial storage, flash rom, base RAM, processing/circuitry for the newly defined bus that components run on, etc) and then allow for additional items like the processor, extra ram, camera, microsd slot, battery to be swapped into the device.

      This will in no way be a bare motherboard like phonebloks was referring to as that is extremely unrealistic.

    • Getting the phone to be weighted evenly (and not horribly imbalanced) could be an issue too.

      • Ryan Chapman

        Maybe someone will be innovative and fix that.

    • Justtyn Hutcheson

      Actually, from an electrical and mechanical engineering standpoint, there is nothing preventing this in the slightest. There will be some necessary compromises to be sure, but Motorola already uses quite a few contact connectors in the Moto X (see the iFixit teardown). Expanding upon that, it would certainly not be a difficult step to expose those connectors to the outside of the device for interchangeability. The most difficult part would, as you say, be weight distribution, but if they design each block themselves, or provide detailed specs as to a module’s absolute weight and where to locate the CG, then balance would be effectively perfect no matter what block is there. The only difficult part would be if they tried to make the connectors work for different modules, i.e. any “block” could be used for additional power, but that could be controlled as well with the right circuitry.

      TL;DR: There is absolutely no engineering principle that explicitly or implicitly states that “SWaP” and customizability are distinctly at odds with each other. All designs are a balance of trade-offs in all factors, and true engineering prowess is shown when you can increase one without decreasing any of the others, usually through new processes, materials, technological advances, etc.

    • elemeno

      More thoughts…

      I’m surprised to see this from Motorola. They were the first Android OEM to discover the benefits of non-removable batteries. This community had a fit when they heard the announcement with the Droid RAZR. But it seems like Motorola is the only Android OEM that seems to have tackled the battery life issue. Exhibit A as to how efficiency and interchangeability are at odds with each other.

  • Colton

    My adult love of Lego’s is coming back. Seriously though, imagine this in the FUTURE. Sure, there are limitations and downsides to this as some people have already mentioned, but think about how this could work as technology advances and this (hopefully) becomes a reality. This kind of thing makes me so excited for the future.

  • Ryan Gullett

    People like this because the idea sounds good. But the reality is that this has so many hurdles to overcome. I have a hard time thinking it can actually work. Even if it become a reality, it can’t take off because this type of device wouldn’t appeal to the general consumer.

    • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

      You’re making a lot of assumptions about there general consumer there. People want to update their phones as easily and as cheap as possible. This is a great idea for the “general consumer”.

      • Colton

        I agree. Although I do see what Ryan is saying. As I mentioned in my previous comment, just imagine where this could go. Great potential in my eyes

        • Ryan Gullett

          I agree. I think its crazy a major company with Google’s money is giving this a stab.

      • Ryan Gullett

        Did you just say it is wrong to make a general assumption by saying another general assumption? lol

    • Render

      They will encase it in an outer shell and sell it as a normal smart phone with the ability to upgrade…watch. I had zero confidence in phonebloks, but I think Motorola/Google have the resources to pull this one off…

  • STEV3

    I’m starting to see what Google has planned for Moto. I’m souped even though its only a concept Google has a lot of money and Moto has the right people to pull it off. All they need is the other OEMs to hop on this and a new Android version (beyond Kit Kat). This could be a “Nexus” type of device.

  • Jonathan



    Now this is the Google inspired Motorola I know would come about!

    • ranlil

      Now if Google would only inspire Moto to have decent customer / tech support! Try getting a Moto X fixed that’s defective.

      • kixofmyg0t

        I’ll help you. What’s wrong with it and what carrier?

        • ranlil

          After countless chat sessions and time on the phone, they told me a few times someone would call me and they never do. Moto X VZW DevEd. So I had to lose root to satisfy them and they finally told me I had to send it in. I don’t have another phone because I donated my Bionic to charity.

  • tyguy829

    Don’t get me wrong–I understand the potential of this and am really excited, but I can’t help wondering if this is going to destroy the dev community. How do you develop software for an infinite number of hardware combinations?

    • Stephen Cox


  • cwillen

    I first saw this and was like, “woah, they just totally ripped off Dave Hakkens/Phonebloks,” but then I did some more research and supposedly is working with Dave Hakkens on the project. Koodos to that guy.

    Frick’n genius.

    • JRUIV

      K already mentioned that in his article “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.” But I agree, should be interesting.

      • cwillen

        Good catch. Totally missed that last paragraph..

        • TheDrizzle

          I understand. It was really hard to actually read the article through my excitement!

  • Kernschatten

    I like the concept. I really do. But, I keep picturing the phone with a Verizon logo on every module.

    • cwillen

      Yea, I’m mildly concerned about that too. I have no desire for my cellphone to look like a stock car.

      • Jared

        However, think of the price discounts that could be possible for those who are interested in ‘subsidizing’ their blocks. You could have advertisers that make the different modules super inexpensive, just to slap their logo on it. That’s an interesting possible option for those who might be interested in that sort of thing, though I know it’s not for everyone (myself included).

    • Time to start rumors: Verizon will create an irremovable logo block that will serve no meaningful function.

      • Balthazar_B

        No, in order to use this phone on the Verizon network, you will have to agree to a Verizon tattoo on the back of both hands (and an iron-on logo on any gloves you own).

  • TK

    Seems like a pointless idea, the phone in the picture above doesn’t even have a camera flash… if this sees the store shelves it will come with terrible specs

    • Obvious Sarcasm

      Hmm…when it comes to store shelves, I’ll just buy the modules that have 4 year old specs, instead of the modules that have next years specs…wait…yup, that’s pointless.

  • Jayp976

    I do believe that Apple owns guys patten….. Lol

    • Jayp976

      That patten

  • Frettfreak

    Holy wow. That would be a game changer.

  • Alex Boro

    Only if there was a block called “nexus” that you can switch out to get android updates fast.

  • SplashMTN

    This is going to be amazing if it ends up happening. I think the toughest part is going to make new parts/upgrades affordable (hopefully I’m wrong).

  • Ryan

    I have tried pitching this to my OEM but the problem is when you change hardware the software must be changed. If people are mad about software updates now this will make it worse. You will have to have different Android versions for every hardware selection. Essentially like Windows OS where you install different drivers and can be plagued with issues. Cool concept but not practical. I hope I am wrong because this is a cool idea dont get me wrong.

    • Obvious Sarcasm

      Hopefully the blocks will be plug ‘n’ play, and they figure out a way to implement loading/unloading of driver modules. So excited! <–(Not sarcasm if you didn't happen to pick up on that.)

      • samari711

        considering they use the linux kernel, there’s nothing to figure out. worst case scenario is they don’t have udev implemented yet.

        • Obvious Sarcasm

          Exactly, that was what I was trying to get at. Just forgot udev was what it was called. 🙂

    • droidftw

      Most of Windows works out of the box without ever connecting to the internet. Obviously things work better once specialized drivers are added but it works quite well. I could see this working.

    • Dillon Brown

      I wonder how much of Google rolling much of android into play services and updating through the play store will help in solving this issue.

      • I think that one of the issues is at an API level. These can’t really be solved by putting updates to apps in google play. Look at the notification listener service, it can only be used by 4.3+ devices. Apps that use this won’t work on older devices, so updates are still needed.

        • Dillon Brown

          There will always be versions updates and things that can’t be updated in the play store and the varying hardware will cause people to be all over the place on version number, however, it will go a long way on making that not matter as much, and potentially could make support and turnaround times quicker with, the OS updates being smaller, of course this doesn’t apply to the OEM software where things could get messy. I’m sure the mobile operating paradigm will need some tweaking, but hopeful and excited.

    • Really hoping that the next version if android implements a driver-like system.

    • Jarred Sutherland

      I just posted a thought very similar to this. Being modular is great, but for major components such as CPU, GPU, etc .. it just seems like a miserable equation.

    • You could incorporate the necessary software drivers/updates in the module GPU/CPU/whatever. When you plug the module into the phone, the update occurs on boot or whatever.

      People are reading into this too much. Have a little faith in Moto/Google. This isn’t an impossibility. The fact that this is all being done by Motorola, in association with Google, makes it even more possible.


    Now this is impressive. This would completely shift the market.

  • Jeff McLean

    Whoa…….that’s a big fat WIN. Count me in!

  • Ben Murphy


    • YourFriend

      Go back to that shithole they call Reddit and take your “epic maymay xD” with you.

      • HomelessRomantic

        Actually, it’s pronounced “me-me”..


  • dtraini30

    Hey Apple, this is innovation. Not putting a damn fingerprint scanner on a freshly skinned iPhone. I cannot wait for more information about this.

  • Shamu

    Screw fingerprint scanners…THIS IS INNOVATION!!!

    • The only difference is that the fingerprint scanner has actually made it in to the hands of consumers. This is really only a concept at this point (admittedly a very interesting concept, especially if it ever actually makes it in to a product).

      This isn’t really innovation either. You can basically do the same thing with a laptop (swap batteries, storage space, RAM, etc. Do you really think this is the first modular electronic device?)

      Why not take a modular phone and a fingerprint scanner?
      Is your Apple-hate too strong to allow for such a device?
      Keep fishing for upvotes!

      • Rojo623

        jeezus. the hate is strong with this one.

        • I think that my response came out a little harsher than intended haha.
          If this ever came out It would be a first day purchase for me (completely specced out of course 🙂
          I’m really just tired of people coming on and bashing apple so they can receive a couple of meaningless up votes. It really just makes android users as a whole look bad. The same users who say that they love cool new technology can’t seem to grasp the bigger picture.
          All of the thoughtful and interesting comments (like some of the ones below) get pushed down while the troll comments get up voted. Does nobody see the problem with that?

          • Rojo623

            Agree with all these points.
            Disagree from above though… imho it’s absolutely innovation. Nothing like this in the mobile platform.

            Don’t matter though… seems you’ve caught the ire of the crowd.

          • HarvesterX

            Above post (about Apple fans bashing Samsung whenever the roll isn’t in the favor, and then some) IS ABSOLUTELY true. I like lurking in Apple forums just to read and usually get a good laugh. To Apple Fans, Samsung IS Android. And yes, they trash Samsung so hard. I can’t stand up for Samsung though as the large portion of complaints are valid. I do stand up for Android if needed and have a complete riot when those with a non technological background begin explaining why something is as it should be.

            Yes, the newest A7 beats up on Android phones as a whole. The only exceptions are G2 that I know oof . the Note 3 and G2 both run the same GPU and CPU so I don’t understand why Samsung *lags* behind. To benchmark those Samsung phones by the way, you need to resign the benchmark app and give it another name (just changing the app name might help). After doing this, it falls behind the G2 AND iPhone 5s. Hell my G2 doesn’t dominate the 5s in any means but it does do so in 3DMark and a few other apps and keeps up with the A7 elsewhere. Once you remove Samsung’s kernel tweak advantages thst only apply during benchmarks, it scores llove than each. Point is, Samsung is just as bad as Apple is but at least Apple knows what they are doing. The A7 was a huge step in the right direction.

            Side Note: The extra RAM we have compared to the 5s is useful in multitasking aand other tasks but having a 1.2±MHz CPU outdo our SD800s (some more than others) and with it having 1Gb RAM is amazing yet nobody has given them anybody credit.

          • Hideoushit

            You’ve obviously never been to an Apple forum. If a news article that makes Apple look bad come out, they instantly yell at…. Samsung.

          • Name

            Apple includes fingerprint scanner in iPhone 5S and the dubb it REVOLUTIONARY and market it as INNOVATIVE. Apple users buy into it believing Apple created it.
            Motorola creates Project Ara and tech people and mobile enthusiasts dubb it INNOVATIVE AND REVOLUTIONARY. And it is. Nothing like it in mobile devices has been accomplished before (I realize this still in development).
            See the difference?

      • Philip J. Fry
        • If even one person could please explain why they are downvoting , that would be great.
          Nothing that I have said is false.
          -This is still very much in the concept stage
          -technology like this already exists (just as fingerprint scanners already existed)
          -optimally, we would have both technologies implemented in our devices.

          If any one person can give me a strong, valid argument against any one of these three statements, I will consider my comment a troll post and retract everything I have written above.

          • ShadowGTX

            If you really want a reason WHY you’re getting downvotes. Then here are some reasons. The reason he brings up the finger print scanner thing is because Apple users really do believe this is some so brand new to smart phones (anyone remember the Moto Atrix?). Two you’re comparing his post to computers? computers, and cell phones are COMPLETELY different in the amount of work they have to do to get the tech to fit inside it. Last it sounds like you’re protecting Apple, and bashing android for ONE simple comment a user made. Comparing Finger print on a smart phone to having inter changeable parts IS innovation. Think about it this means the next phone you buy you wont have to have buyers remorse since you just change out certain parts. Yes the idea is in concept, but i bet you they have proto types already out there. Re-read all your posts, and look at what you’re saying again. They dont seem like troll posts they seem like Apple Protection, and android bashing. given even the other way around, Android Protecting, and Apple Bashing, still is not in good taste. Just like you are tired of all the Apple bashing a lot of us are tired of hearing how people think Apple is creating brand new innovative things on smart phones. Hope this puts some insight on your posts

          • SkylaC90

            Damn!!!!!! Hardcore man, but seriously good job creating and explaining all your points without being a dick. for this you get a Cookie.

          • Thank you for taking the time to write above.
            I would just like you to tell me where I said that the fingerprint scanner was innovative.
            In fact, my first comment used the word ‘either’ implying that I did not find either of the devices to be extremely innovative.

          • “This isn’t really innovation either. You can basically do the same thing with a laptop (swap batteries, storage space, RAM, etc. Do you really think this is the first modular electronic device?)”

            Second paragraph of your first post. This more then strongly implies that a phone that you can upgrade part by part much like legos is in no way innovative. Yet, another manufacturer(apple or not) puts a fingerprint scanner on a phone and the whole world has to stop for it.

          • Jarred Sutherland

            I doubt many people think fingerprint scanners are new tech in phones. However, when Apple puts it in a phone it gets a much wider adoption rate than with any other device. They tend to make it useful too. This reminds me of my HTC Thunderbolt. It came with a front facing camera but ZERO software to make use of it other than the camera app (99% useless). Rather than develop the software to utilize the camera, they just put it in there and hoped everyone else would make use of it.

            Basing what people on internet forums say is taking a tiny slice of the huge pie and then assuming it’s what all users of a particular device think or say. I mean heck, if we did that with the general population here I wouldn’t want to know anyone that owns an Android device .. just as rabid as people on the Apple sites.

          • Ryan Chapman

            Why are you getting down voted? Cause you sound like a Douche.

          • tony

            Don’t you mean READ or TYPE like a douche? LOL! I kid I kid. No seriously. LOL!

          • Butters619

            -Fingerprint scanners have already been in phones.

            -Show me a modular phone…

          • Stnkycheezman

            yeah you’re coming off bad cause this original comment of yours didn’t give credit to how big of a deal a modular phone would be. It is pretty innovative first of all cause nobody has done it for a phone yet. If I were to take your stance, it’d be like me saying interchangeable parts in laptops and PC’s weren’t a big deal 20 years ago cause ford did it with cars before them, and gun makers did it before them. So nobody has innovated anything related to interchangeable parts in forever. I think the challenges that each industry face when making a product with interchangeable parts are all different and when they’re able to get past that barrier and produce a product that can actually be modular, that is innovation. But in your original comment you take away credit from that. it’s like saying the internet isn’t innovative because I could’ve got the information in a book…they’re just applying the technology and information of a book onto a screen now.

      • TeeJay1100

        You have a BAD ATTITUDE…

      • samari711

        by that logic, smartphones weren’t really innovative either, I mean they’re just small computers right?

        • Any piece of technology can be broken down into two categories: hardware and software. On a hardware level (as I think you are referring to), I don’t think companies have been all that innovative. I think that the innovation in the smartphone market has mostly come from the software side. Who knows, hopefully we will begin seeing some really cool and innovative hardware come out in the future (modular phones seem like a great start).

      • Glenda S. Currier

        just as Wayne responded I’m impressed that a student able to get paid $4798 in four weeks on the internet. try here


      • You realize Motorola did the fingerprint scanner first, over two years ago, right?

        And that this is innovation in the smartphone world? There had already been touch-based phones prior to the iPhone.

      • Roubaix

        I have had fingerprint scanners on my gun safes for 5+ years already. It’s nothing new.

        • michael arazan

          Laptops have had fingerprint scanners for years as well

      • RaptorOO7

        Yes you can swap laptop batteries, but you can you swap the processor, screen resolution, webcam, video card, etc? Those components and they are critical components are specific to the laptop (or Notebook) and not truly swappable.

        • Raven

          I am not defending anyone, but to answer your question, yes. On some laptops you can swap lots of components. Now few are simple toolless swaps, but with just a screwdriver I could swap CPU, RAM, HD, GPU, and WiFi module. Some even have a hot swap bay for DVD, BluRay, 2nd HD or 2nd battery which would be closest to this phone concept.

      • Razma

        the Motorola Atrix had a fingerprint scanner, just because Apple copies something doesnt make it innovative. Motorola went down the scanner road and they’ve moved on. At least they are trying to be innovative

        • Mike H

          Apple’s fingerprint scanner on the iPhone isn’t innovative. It is well executed though which is usually what’s more important. If apple actually made a phone with a decent sized screen I would consider switching back. I’d rather have a rock solid device than something I can call innovative and doesn’t work well.

      • CHRIS42060

        You’re correct the fingerprint scanner did make it into the hands of consumers in 2011 when Motorola released the Atrix 4G. Granted not a lot of consumer, but they beat Apple by 2 years.

      • Adrynalyne

        innovation [ˌɪnəˈveɪʃən]
        1. something newly introduced, such as a new method or device
        2. the act of innovating
        innovational adj
        innovationist n

        Nobody else has done this in a smartphone. Sounds like the definition of innovation to me.

      • Trent Callahan

        But since they’re working on it, it’s innovation. -.-

      • Stevedub40

        How quickly we forget about the Motorola Atrix. Been there done that…

    • zurginator

      Taking an existing idea and scaling it down is not innovation. Period.
      It’s the same reason we get pissedpissed at Apple for patenting things that have been done in the desktop alreadyalready with “on a mobile device” tacked on. (CPU throttling, for example).

      The Moto X is innovation. The Kocera Ecco was innovation (if unwanted). The Asus Transformer and Padfone were innovative. The 2-tone flash of the 5s is innovative (let’s face it guys, that was clever). The Samsung Note was innovative. The Galaxy Nexus was innovative. Curved screens are innovative, like them or not.

      Modularity isn’t.

      • fauxshizzl

        Wow you have a very short sighted view of technology if you don’t think this is the exact definition of innovation.

        • zurginator

          If you’re going to argue that though, then you have to argue the fingerprint sensor in the 5s is innovation. That the lightning port was innovation. That the retina display is innovation. That sapphic crystal on the iPhone 5 was an innovation.

          You can’t pick and choose just because it’s coming from a company you like.

          • fauxshizzl

            Unlike most here, I have no problem admitting those were innovations, nor did I say anything to the contrary of it. You seem to be the one having trouble grasping the definition of “innovate” regardless of the company who produces said innovation.

          • Tyler

            Those things you mentioned are features or improvements of a component. This completely changes the way manufactures would design smartphones which is innovative.

          • Adrynalyne

            Name one modular smartphone. No?

            Then it is an innovation.

            Sapphire crystal existed before Apple used it: Not innovation in itself, but is for a smartphone.
            Fingerprint scanner existed before Apple used it. Not innovation.
            Retina display is innovation, sure.
            Lightning port is innovation, yes.

      • TheDrizzle

        I don’t think the concept of modularity is innovative, but the implementation of it into smartphones sure as hell is. Care to explain your reasoning?

        • zurginator

          It’s the same reason I don’t think the fingerprint sensor in the 5s or the lightning port or the retina display or sapphic crystal on the iPhone 5 was an innovation.

          • TheDrizzle

            You are being very vague. How does a modular phone even remotely compare to those things mentioned?

          • Adrynalyne

            It doesn’t.

            When you break down the word innovation, the modular smartphone is it. The problem with @zurginator:disqus is that he thinks that revolutionary and innovative are the same thing.

    • Adam Truelove

      Apple stopped innovating years ago.

      • michael arazan

        Apple is saving a fortune waiting for other companies to do innovation and then just add the features to their next year’s device

        • Rich

          Yeah so they can add them and then sue them for it like they did Android…
          Stole their features then tried to sue the sister companies for it…

          To Add: how can one get a patent on rounded corners? thats not innovative or a new tech… so how can you patent a look?

          That like me patent a rounded light bulb instead of a square one tho the same tech is in both developed by edison…

          • Jarred Sutherland

            They sued sister companies like Samsung because they outright stole from already established designs that Apple used. In this case, artwork was copied to make the Galaxy phones look as much like the iPhone as possible.

            I agree many of the things Apple tries to patent and then sue for are stupid, but some things they have a pretty good ground to stand on.

          • Stevedub40

            Ol’ Debbie Downer strikes again…

          • Jarred Sutherland

            Yes, I am being a “Debbie Downer” because I pose a side other than “Android is the best and everything else is nothing!!111!!”. Sorry, I guess everyone here should all have the same opinion. The problem is .. Apple fanboys are already “Sheeple” .. so what do we can the Android equivalent?


          • Damon C. Walden

            Nikola Tesla.

            The only thing Edison invented was trolling.

          • Jibzoiderz

            ummm apple Invented the first *legit smartphone and android copied it when steve jobs went to the google developers and see what they look like

          • John Parabellum

            FALSE! Danger did the first smartphone. The Sidekick

      • Adrynalyne

        So did Samsung, (but don’t tell anyone!)

        Our little secret.

        • Jarred Sutherland

          Don’t speak ill of anything here but Apple, it makes people angry!

          • Stevedub40

            You seem to be the only one that gets angry when people bash on apple. C’mon man, what do you expect? It would be like walking into the Big House with an Ohio State jersey on – you should expect to get bashed a bit.

          • Jarred Sutherland

            I don’t get angry when people bash Apple, I really couldn’t care less. Apple is a company, they design a product I use (right now). What cracks me up more than anything is you guys are a mirror image of the Apple fanboy you hate. My statement was meant to say “Don’t say anything ill of any android product, because it makes people angry, but you can make fun of Apple”.

      • Twyke

        Yeah, because fingerprint scanners, Air Drop, Retina displays, ambient flash and 120 fps video recording with slow-mo is not innovative enough.

        • Trent Callahan

          Androids have all of those, with the exception of 120 FPS video. Mobile video capture is kinda useless imo at 120 FPS, photos are where it’s at.

          Besides, those aren’t innovative, they’re just small, quirky, useless improvements that brainwashed iSheep (Average consumers) think are amazing and buy the same device all over, not using any of the fore mentioned features.. Retina is nothing compared to newer displays. Ambient flash, really?


        • jose

          “Retina displays”. haha! Shows how clueless you Appletards are.

        • Stone Cold

          Motorola Atrix had the fingerprint scanner before Apple made it “cool”. Look it up.

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