Motorola has announced a new R&D project for the future of smartphone design that it intends to push forward as an open standard for other manufacturers to use and adopt in what it calls Project Ara. The genesis of the concept was the idea of the mobile phone as a perpetual device without the need to buy new models every 12-24 months just to take advantage of new advances in mobile technology or features, such as upgraded processors, camera modules and flash memory increases along with improvements to displays.
Motorola has also announced that it is working with the developer of the Phonebloks modular device concept to further develop and refine Project Ara into a commercial product, which Motorola expects to release next year. To that end, it has also announced a volunteer pilot program for interested people in the Project Ara Research Scout program in order for Motorola to gather feedback on the direction of Project Ara as a commercially viable device through months of specialized feedback.
While the idea behind Project Ara is noble and intends to function as an exercise to figure out how to create more customized devices that are tailored to each owner without needing to release different and disparate models, the execution of the modular system and standards behind it will need to be constrained based on current interface and packaging limitations, which will no doubt affect costs and other factors that have yet to be fully explored, let alone fully implemented as logical possibilities.
Whatever the case may be, Motorola is setting itself up for a big risk with this development, as it is still losing money even after its purchase and complete integration as a Google division. For Motorola to announce Project Ara at this point means that it is looking for a way to keep itself relevant while still dealing with the red ink from months of continued losses. More information is expected in the future, though the fact that it wants to release a fully working commercial product in a year means that it’s hoping that the feedback will speed up the process, and that remains to be seen.