Entrepreneurship, Technology

Modular Hardware = Consumer Win

Have you heard about Project Ara from Google? If not, you should check it out. It is an exciting initiative focused on offering modular phones to consumers. For those of you not familiar with this concept, allow me to use a fun example: Mr. Potato Head. With our spudly friend, we can swap ears, limbs, eyes, add accessories, and change expressions; all without purchasing a new Mr. Potato Head. The proposition of a modular phone is not too different: instead of purchasing phone after phone just for different hardware components, a consumer could simply replace part of the device. For instance, if a consumer wanted a new high-definition camera, he or she could simply remove the existing block component and swap it for a purchased new one. Or that person could add hardware functionality that might not otherwise be available, like NFC with a secure element.

This is a huge opportunity for consumers. Conceivably, costs for these devices and parts will decrease as more and more are produced. This means that quality hardware will be made available to a wider customer base, although if you’re a tween or teenager, this also means that you may be upgrading your device components every couple of months; a potentially expensive scenario for enabling parents.

With this being a Google initiative, I am also hoping that certified third parties will be able to offer standardized components for this platform, keeping with Google’s (relative) tradition of enabling an open ecosystem. I would also be interested in seeing some hardware specifications open-sourced and made 3D printable, but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself..

Overall, I am excited for what this project could mean for global smartphone adoption and consumer customization. Supposedly, we will be seeing the first of these devices in January 2015, and I look forward to testing one. If you are interested in helping with Project Ara, I recommend signing up here and additionally checking out Phonebloks. Be sure to tweet me with your thoughts on modular!