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Thread: Motorola's Project Ara: Phonebloks from an OEM

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    Default Motorola's Project Ara: Phonebloks from an OEM

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    Phonebloks was a campaign that focused upon attracting the interest of OEMs by showing that there was an incredible amount of interest for a modular phone. This was mostly for reasons of reducing electronics waste, the potential for incredible customization, and the potential for reduced upgrade costs associated with the 1-2 year upgrade cycle. As the current model requires the purchase of an entire phone, upgrading a single “module”, or a set of modules that would update the device would reduce the cost of upgrading to the consumer, much like the current desktop PC system of upgrading individual components.

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    However, at the time it seemed unlikely that such a campaign would ever produce a meaningful result in the industry. Now, it might be less so as Motorola announced Project Ara, a platform that promises the same modularity that the Phonebloks campaign was promoting, and has also partnered with the creator of the Phonebloks campaign for this project.The concept is largely the same, with an endoskeleton and modules that make up the phone. The display, following the Phonebloks concept, is also likely to be its own module. While actual details of the concept are effectively nil, there are still an enormous number of challenges that such a design would face..


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    The first would be from a purely hardware perspective, as there is an unavoidable tradeoff between volumetric efficiency and modularity in such a design. While modern smartphones are effectively a tight stack of PCB, battery, and display, this adds in an entire interface for each module that connects them together. This means that the memory module would effectively go from the size of an average eMMC chip to around a full-size SD card due to the need for a durable interface that would connect it to the rest of the phone. This is most readily seen by the differences between the international and Korean LG G2, as the international variant has a ~15% larger battery by virtue of the sealed design that allowed for LG Chemicon’s curved battery pack with thinner walls to allow for more battery capacity.

    The second issue in this case would be regulatory, as the FCC only tests single configurations for approval. Such a design would be incredibly challenging to get approval for as there could easily be unpredictable RF behavior from unexpected behavior from a specific setup of modules, or issues with the endoskeleton portion because the modules aren't all part of a single PCB that is unlikely to suffer issues with short circuits or other connection issues, while a modular design would face such challenges.


    The final major issue is that of history, as the failure of Intel’s Whitebook initiative from 2006 makes it much harder to see a similar initiative succeeding in the smartphone space. As the Whitebook initiative promised a DIY, modular laptop, much like Phonebloks and Project Ara, and failed due to the rise of completely integrated laptop designs such as the Apple rMBP line, it seems unlikely that such a project would succeed without significant compromise, either in modularity or in competitiveness with the more integrated smartphones. While laptops like the rMBP are effectively impossible for the user to repair, much less open, they have become incredibly popular, and the PC OEMs have followed Apple’s lead in this regard, with consumer demand generally tending towards thinner and lighter laptops, just as the same demand seems to occur in the smartphone space, it is difficult to see such an initiative succeeding. While such initiatives are sure to garner widespread enthusiast support, enthusiasts generally lose their ability to influence the market once a market segment becomes popular with general consumers, as can be seen by the PC industry. However, it remains to be seen whether there is mass-market appeal for such a phone, and it may well be that Motorola is tapping a niche with enormous potential.

    source: http://www.anandtech.com/show/7469/m...ks-from-an-oem

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    Seems like moto has too much money to burn and too much time to waste...
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    Quote Originally Posted by CvP View Post
    Seems like moto has too much money to burn and too much time to waste...
    Motorola would never pursue this. But Google does have almost unlimited money and resources so they are trying something radically different. And if it works, it will have the upgradability of a PC. The only reason not to buy this would be that someone does not like its initial design. Other than that, it would be perfect.

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    phoneblock rocks... but i think it will be very very difficult to get something good out of phoneblock bcoz it will cost much more and take too much space.

    good luck moto/google whoever doing this

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    seems like google told them to make the phoneblocks video to publicize their concept LOL

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    Quote Originally Posted by sammi View Post
    Motorola would never pursue this. But Google does have almost unlimited money and resources so they are trying something radically different. And if it works, it will have the upgradability of a PC. The only reason not to buy this would be that someone does not like its initial design. Other than that, it would be perfect.
    Where the world is moving towards ONE SoC handling almost all of those components, which benefits cost, size/space, thermal issues, increases battery etc, how do you think this "project" is a good idea?

    The only things that can be "blocky" (lol!) are battery, camera, display. Sim card tray, usb/power port, microsd slot are kinda irrelevant here.

    As for battery, camera and display...all of them are different type of components and require different type of connectors (cam: burst high bandwidth; display: sustained high bandwidth; ;battery: power).

    Phones are already "blocky" enough (e.g, removable battery phones duh!).
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    Hopeless initiative. Nothing more to say. But I learnt very early in life that one shn't judge the book by its cover. Plus Google's got Midas' touch. So let's sit back and watch the show. Cause all the melodrama'll be happening in the NA market.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CvP View Post
    Where the world is moving towards ONE SoC handling almost all of those components, which benefits cost, size/space, thermal issues, increases battery etc, how do you think this "project" is a good idea?

    The only things that can be "blocky" (lol!) are battery, camera, display. Sim card tray, usb/power port, microsd slot are kinda irrelevant here.

    As for battery, camera and display...all of them are different type of components and require different type of connectors (cam: burst high bandwidth; display: sustained high bandwidth; ;battery: power).

    Phones are already "blocky" enough (e.g, removable battery phones duh!).
    My point exactly.

    I think they will never be able to modularize the cpu, gpu, memory and mobo.

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    I also read on various forums ever since the Phonebloks video first came out that it would not be possible to have everything set up so the transistion would be as seamless as the video shows or if it could work at all due to the circuits and power lines and other things I really don't understand. However, the only reason I expect anything at all out of this is because it's Google. Google can pretty much do anything. I read in 'Time' magazine that they are even researching how to extend the human life span.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sammi View Post
    I also read on various forums ever since the Phonebloks video first came out that it would not be possible to have everything set up so the transistion would be as seamless as the video shows or if it could work at all due to the circuits and power lines and other things I really don't understand. However, the only reason I expect anything at all out of this is because it's Google. Google can pretty much do anything. I read in 'Time' magazine that they are even researching how to extend the human life span.
    Google can do anything. And with enough money anything can be done.

    But might not be cost effective or marketable.
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