ZTE shows off its own Project Ara alternative, the Eco-Mobius modular concept

by: Andrew GrushJanuary 8, 2014


When we first heard about Phonebloks, we though it was a cool idea but mostly just a pipedream that had little chance of becoming a reality. Shortly after that, Motorola announced their own modular phone concept called Project Ara.

With Motorola in the game, we certainly have a bit more faith that modular phones can eventually become a reality. That said, it’s still not something that is exactly a “mainstream” idea, but that’s not stopping ZTE from joining in with their own Eco-Mobius modular concept. 

ZTE’s concept device certainly looks a bit more like a traditional handset than the Ara, and yet theoretically it would offer a similar level of customization. Right now ZTE is showing off the idea at CES 2014, though they make it clear that it is currently a research experiment and not necessarily destined for commercialization just yet.

The ZTE concept consists of four main modules: the core, display, battery and camera. As you probably already figured, the core includes the processor, RAM and other major components. The fact that the processor and RAM are all part of the core doesn’t mean they can’t be swapped out, however. Each of these components can be removed easily and replaced thanks to their special magnetic connectors.


The ZTE Eco-Mobius project might be very similar to Project Ara when it comes to the conceptual technology involved, but their process is certainly different. While Motorola is developing the platform openly and hopes to involve quite a few different companies and developers, ZTE is currently planning to design and create all the components themselves.

Like Motorola, ZTE also notes that modular phones aren’t just for those of us that love customization and the idea of upgrading our devices. The hope is that modular phones would be a green solution, as people can upgrade their phones bit by bit, instead of throwing them in the landfill. Then again, those old modular parts still have to go somewhere, right?

Modular phones are certainly cool concepts, but don’t expect to see Project Ara or Eco-Mobius hit store shelves anytime soon. A lot still of research and development still needs to be done before modular phones can become a reality. What do you think: like the idea of modular devices, or do you feel that they just aren’t practical?

*all photos used come from the article source, PcMag*

  • Brandon Miranda

    Sounds very interesting…

  • Daniel Petersen

    “Then again, those old modular parts still have to go somewhere, right?”

    Yes – but the point is that most often when a phone is damaged it is only one part that doesn’t work. So you waste all the other good parts when throwing it out.
    The phoneblock concept is more green because you only swap that one piece out.

    • Ross

      Of course if manufacturers really want to improve the green credentials of their phones, they should support the software (i.e. new OS versions) for much longer than they currently do. Even if that means having to pay something for the update.

      I was running Jelly Bean on an HTC Desire, but that was pushing the limits of the hardware. HTC stopped releasing updates at Froyo. Not every user is comfortable dealing with custom ROMs, and they shouldn’t have to be.

  • Guest123

    first they need to come out with a truly unbreakable screen. . .

  • Dario · 753 a.C. .

    anyone has already tought that someone can easily steal some of your components and put them on his phones?

    if you have a phone like this, will you leave it on the table when you’re at school ?

    • Tuấn Ankh

      “Who stole my phone’s camera?!!??”

      • Dario · 753 a.C. .


      • Jayfeather787

        Damn, where did that processor go?

  • Mike Reid

    Who knows how well this will be executed by any company ?

    But the idea is great ! I’m sure I’m not the only one who wanted this over 10 years ago, seeing the waste in having still/video cameras in multiple devices.

    Maybe it won’t be practical soon with an “in your pocket” phone.

    But for hobbyists, and even some real products, it will be wonderful to build stuff like this into robots, drones, cars, appliances, whatever…

    Modularity will make this much easier to do.

  • Tjaldid

    well these might be rather thick, so lets see

  • J_Pod

    First thought was “Cool another company actually putting some R&D behind this!”

    Then I saw “ZTE is currently planning to design and create all the components themselves.”……….. Sigh, now all we’ll have are a bunch of phone lego-block pieces with all different connectors that can’t be mixed. Like phone batteries are already instead of how micro SD Cards are already.

    Unless ZTE makes their own parts yes but makes them compatible.

  • [email protected]

    why cant these companies come up with anything original. Where does their R&D money even go.

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