In 2012, device makers began to explore the idea of the modular cellphone; a mobile device that users can customize, effectively giving consumers control over what they do and do not need from their smartphones (and perhaps one day, this will extend even to tablets). With Google’s Project Ara, this dream is coming to fruition. Just last week, Google’s Spiral 2 prototype was released to the public along with some new plans for the device.
The ultimate goal of the Spiral 3 will be to allow users to switch modules on the fly, even your battery. Hardware changes are also coming to the next prototype, making the device more robust and longer lasting to account for the constant swapping of modules. Other ambitious features include a “day long” battery, 4G LTE capability, more advanced camera modules and a larger selection of customization options for users.
Even the distribution of these new handhelds will be revolutionary. Initially, the device will be released as a test run in Puerto Rico where points of sale will be something reminiscent of a food truck. Eventually, Google hopes to create points of sale where customers can create their own personalized phone on the spot, even having the phone’s case 3D printed onsite. Such an experience will give users complete control over the outcome of their new cell phone.
Given this scenario of complete customization, I cannot help but wonder, “What phone would I build?” Although smartphone options like a large external speaker and high definition camera seem alluring, these are just some of the customization options that will be available. Imagine devices such as on-board blood sugar monitors for those with diabetes and integrated modules for use with wearables. The range of features that will be created seem limitless, especially if third party modules begin to enter the market.
What would you build?