A DIY phone?
Remember Project Ara? It was Google’s attempt to create a modular smartphone which would allow consumers to pick and choose components and build their dream device, but it never made it to market and was mothballed by the search giant.
A new patent – spotted by T3 – have surfaced that suggest Google is reviving the concept, and there are rumours circulation that it could even make this new modular approach part of the Pixel line of handsets.
The patent – which is entitled “Modular Device and Methods Therefor” – covers some pretty cool ideas, and while it’s not quite as complex as Project Ara was, it could lead to some interesting devices.
The patent breaks down the product into three modular components. The main unit contains elements like the chipset, sensors, battery and other electronic parts, while upgrade modules can be clipped onto this to augment its capabilities. The third section serves as the ‘case’ and bolts these two parts together so they feel more like a traditional smartphone.
As such, this system appears to sit somewhere between the aforementioned Project Ara and Motolora’s Moto Mods approach, which allowed very basic function upgrades. Google’s new patent will go beyond that, allowing users to add another screen or bolster the internal RAM with a new module. The camera module could also be upgraded with new features that would bypass the limitations of the main module.
The patent also hints at a future where “made to order model for purchasing electronic devices” is the norm, and users will be able to pick everything from the internals to the shape and material used on the outer casing.
It might seem like odd timing for Google to revive this idea, especially when it sank so much cash into the failed Project Ara – and when you look at the Moto Mods range, it’s clear it hasn’t quite captured the imagination of the public. But consider this; with the smartphone market stagnating and new ideas hard to come by, the time is arguably ripe for a totally new approach to phone design.
A modular Pixel phone could be exactly what the market needs; instead of consumers being forced to ‘make do’ with the phone they’re given, this approach would allow them to build the device that best suits their personal needs and desires, bestowing a level of purchasing freedom that so far hasn’t existed in the smartphone sector. Perhaps that’s what consumers – sick of samey handsets that all do essentially the same thing – are crying out for in 2019.
Like all patents, there’s no guarantee that anything will come of this application, but it would be interesting to see Google take this modular approach to the next level.