Since the inception of the mobile phone new features and technology has been rolled into these handheld wonders. Unfortunately with each new technology a new generation of phone has been required to integrate the technology, also requiring the wholesale disposal of the previous generation. Think of this development process as hard wiring of functionality, a process that requires phone manufacturers to maintain their own system architecture and continually modify the hardware and software to add new functionality.
The current smartphone architectures also limit the choice for consumers, limiting it to the hardware manufacturers want to include, a decision generally based on gaining the most market share. If you want a phone with functions that aren’t in the mainstream vocabulary you are out of luck. This is just the nature of trying to cater for a generalised user base and has led to phone manufacturers battling over screen resolution or phone thickness. Never willing to take a chance with a feature only few would ever require.
Google’s ATAP team have been steadily working away on the next generation mobile phone platform that will solve this functional hard wiring once and for all. This is Project Ara, a framework or architecture that can accept almost any module. While not everyone requires an infrared camera Project Ara will let it be a reality for those that do need that feature. The modules themselves will be purchased from an online store with the required software updates and hardware included with each purchase.
The modules themselves can be manufactured by any third party company and added to any of the Ara phones. Expect a number of big name phone manufacturers to abandon their own architectures and the cost required to maintain it.
The market pilot program for Project Ara phones begins later this year (2015) in Puerto Rico, with customers being able to purchase the phone and modules from tech vans, think food trucks for technology. All going well the next generation Ara phone will become available around the world towards the end of 2015 or during early 2016.
The key to this new open architecture is the Spiral technology, a hardware and software solution that is similar to network and PC interconnect (PIC-e) technology. The current test devices are using the Spiral 2 architecture which is limited to 3G comms and 720p screen resolution. The next generation Spiral 3 will improve this to 4G and 1080p later this year.
If all goes well for Ara the smartphone will soon be far smarter and much more flexible. Everything you want in a phone will soon be just a click and snap away.
Reference: Project Ara Website
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