motorola project ara modular smartphone (1)

Motorola just announced a wild modular smartphone project that hopes to change the way we buy and use mobile devices.

Motorola’s initiative, called Project Ara, is very similar to Phonebloks, the modular smartphone concept launched in early September by Dutch designer Dave Hakkens. Motorola said it’d been working on Ara for over a year, and that it teamed up with Phonebloks to popularize the concept.

Moto wants to create devices that are made of an endoskeleton, which is similar to the motherboard of a PC, and various specialized modules that users can install and replace themselves. For instance, users who want a nice camera can pick up a high-quality camera module and simply fit it on the phone. If battery life is more important, users will be able to ditch the camera module for an extra battery module. The idea is to let customers choose precisely what features they want in their smartphones, as well as to extend the lifespan of the device by making it easy to swap faulty or obsolete components.

motorola project ara modular smartphone (2)

This is how Motorola outlines the goals of Project Ara:

[quote qtext=”We want to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines” qperson=”” qsource=”” qposition=”center”]

Project Ara will be developed in the open, says Motorola, and Phonebloks will serve as the project’s community. The Google-owned company hasn’t reveal any details on the technology behind Ara, but said it did “deep technical work”, suggesting that it already laid the technical foundations. Moto will open the Ara platform to module developers “in a few months” and hopes to release the initial version of the Module Developer’s Kit (MDK) this winter.

motorola project ara modular smartphone (1)

Project Ara is certainly inspiring, but Motorola will have to overcome huge challenges to make it a reality. Some of the most obvious problems are making various types of modules connect through a standard interface, keeping the phone’s size and weight in check, and obtaining regulatory approvals for a device with variable configuration. Still, with Google’s backing, it’s not impossible for Motorola to turn Ara from an ambitious concept to a real, albeit niche, commercial product.

Bogdan Petrovan
Bogdan is the European Managing Editor of Android Authority. He loves tech, travel, and fantasy. He wishes he had more time for two of those things. Bogdan's phone is a Nexus 6P.
  • MasterMuffin

    This is cool, but will most likely stay as small as building own PC. Still freaking cool

    • Nathan Powell

      Umm building your own PC very ppopular, not just a niche

      • MasterMuffin

        Popular compared to just buying a PC? Nope

        • Victor Meira

          Popular compared to just buying a Laptop? Nope.

  • Abhijith Manoj

    What is this doing here?

    • htcLOLZ

      Spycat is watching your patentz!

    • It’s Google. Don’t you expect an easter egg? ;)

      PS: Nice find.

    • Luka Mlinar

      Acknowledging the fact that they are copycats?

      • Electric Head

        Which part of this do you feel they are copying, exactly; and from whom?

        • Ian Evans
          • philnolan3d

            How is that copying?

          • Luka Mlinar

            Not their original idea. Piggybacking on someone elses.

          • philnolan3d

            Sounds like it was their idea to me. Did you read the article?

          • MasterMuffin

            It’s like saying the inventor of *insert anything ever invented* was just a copycat because someone else had that idea before

          • Luka Mlinar

            Except it was never a question about if it could be done. Hell man, why are we giving credit to Galileo since he couldn’t prove anything back in the day.

          • Marco

            Learn 2 read. They started the project over a year ago and they TEAM with phonebloks….

    • Craig Cooper

      Whats been circled in the picture

    • CuGBabyBeaR

      Maybe it is a intimation of customization?

  • Yizhaq Agronov

    The company that tried the modular phone named Modo. Israeli company that went bankrupt.

    • JMabrowski

      And then its patents where bought by….
      (Google bought Modu’s patents in 2011)

      • Yizhaq Agronov

        My point is that its wasn’t great idea in the first place

        • philnolan3d

          Just because one small company couldn’t do it doesn’t make the idea bad.

        • Victoria

          Modu was terrible compared to this. Modu was designed as a low-cost feature phone, not a smartphone, which is why it has failed.

          • Yizhaq Agronov

            It failed because no one want to have half phone with half of the capabilities in their hands while the rest of them somewhere in the closet.

  • Luka Mlinar

    Motorola announces a concept? How about they announce some real phones -.-‘
    Clearly Dennis think Motorola is a playground.

    • adam evans

      Hahah very true , then they might make some money !

  • Ris84
    • Luka Mlinar

      Google probably bought his idea like they buy everything else :D

      • David Rutla

        I would rather them buy then sue like apple…at least there was a payoff and money was made.

    • ReadTheArticle

      Did you not read the article? “Motorola’s initiative, called Project Ara, is very similar to Phonebloks, the modular smartphone concept launched in early September by Dutch designer Dave Hakkens. Motorola said it’d been working on Ara for over a year, and that it teamed up with Phonebloks to popularize the concept.”

    • Cao Meo

      idea is only an idea

      realizing it is what matters.

  • This design is really very unique. Maybe this will be a new beginning for phone trend modular design characteristics

  • BeardoGomez

    With the right implementation I think that this has the potential to grow past a niche product. I think it’s got legs.

  • philnolan3d

    One thing that I think will be a challenge is the pricing of the modules. How do you set a price for something that has no competition? Obviously it’s been done before, with every new invention, I’m just saying it’s tricky.

    • Surreal boric

      Workout the total cost of producing it then add 30-50 % profit

      • philnolan3d

        That’s the technical way of doing it, but they also have to consider what people are willing to pay. I know I wouldn’t pay $100 for a camera module when you can get a whole phone for less than that.

        • AndroidDev123

          You don’t get a whole phone for less than $100, you get a whole phone + a 2 year contract paying extremely inflated rates to cover the cost of the phone. Everyone’s missing the point, this isn’t custom built PC vs stock PC, it’s PC vs Mac. People won’t need to design their own phone to take advantage of this; companies will offer various configurations with customization options. You’ll still be able to get subsidized phones from carriers, and will probably just pay extra to add additional features (like swapping out parts from the base model PC).

  • The R

    If I can get a 5.5 to 6 inch screen with a real keyboard, and what ever is the strongest chip snapdragon 1600 by the time this launches ill buy it a heart beat. This is a device for tech heads that want exclusivity and crazy options, the concept is perfect but if all your going to do is make it colorful you can keep this moto x plus trash

  • Balraj

    Epic fail project
    Huge fail

  • Guest

    Фото кота, действительно, не имеет отношения к описанию гаджета!

  • cretinick

    I just think it will be very hard to make ergonomic configurations and put a good configuration in small (less than 5″) screens. But I hope they succeed!

  • Jason Yuen


  • Jeffry

    I hope it will really come asap..
    stop the consumerism, and buy a new phone just because you need a better camera
    switching camera module will be the answer
    yeay… Amazing google..

  • Bryan Z

    Apple will buy the Lego Group and sue them (joke) lol!!

  • adam evans

    I have a concept for a modular phone but easyer and simpler than this, I’ve tried to develop it my self but I am a mechanical engineer and have a knolage gap to complete it, any electronics guys or software guys out their who would like to develop a different concept?

  • TonyTg2

    eeeh i probably wont be able to get it anyway.. do parts come free in contract or..?

  • iolo0

    If Google’s Project Ara results in some form of battery
    standardization, I’m all for it. And i wouldn’t mind purchasing a
    somewhat bulkier phone if it’s display, flash memory, RAM, and camera
    are user-replaceable and/or upgradeable. This would be great for
    tablets, students, and the environment, as well. I also remember Nokia becoming popular in the Philippines because people could purchase their own colorful casings (front and back covers).

  • William Luky

    Groundbreaking project !

  • Geekoid

    I’d love to see this thing drop-tested. Bits would scatter everywhere!