Google's Project Ara: 10 Ways It Could Change Smartphone Design

1 - Google's Project Ara: 10 Ways It Could Change Smartphone Design
2 - Customizability Is Lacking Across the Industry
3 - The Open Initiative
4 - It Could Change How Apple Designs New Devices
5 - It Could Help Samsung
6 - It Could Alter the Course of Android Development
7 - It Could Even Change Software Development
8 - Can Aesthetic Catch Up to Customizability?
9 - Size Will Matter
10 - Is It Only for Gadget Gurus?
11 - Price Will Be a Major Concern
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Google's Project Ara: 10 Ways It Could Change Smartphone Design

by Don Reisinger

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Customizability Is Lacking Across the Industry

The cornerstone of mobile product design today is control. Companies don't like the idea of giving their customers the choice to decide what components should find their way to devices. In a self-contained mobile device, all of the components live in harmony, delivering a uniform experience for all users. Google is trying to change that.

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The Open Initiative

There was a time, not long ago, when the open-source movement was little more than a niche area of the industry that focused mainly on Linux. With Google's help, however, the open-source movement has taken on the mainstream and become a household term across developed countries. That the average consumer is now being eyed for an open device that lets them choose what they want is a monumental shift in product design and philosophy.

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It Could Change How Apple Designs New Devices

Apple might be loath to give up some of its control over the design of its mobile devices to its customers. But if Project Ara takes off, Apple might not have a choice. As recent history has shown, with Apple offering bigger displays, updates to software and enhanced features in devices, Android vendors are taking the first step toward advancement in many cases. And Apple has been forced to play catch-up. Could Project Ara be the next device to force Apple to change its ways?

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It Could Help Samsung

Samsung could benefit greatly from Project Ara. Granted, the company has so far built its mobile empire by delivering closed-off devices, but it's also flush with cash and has the research and development team to develop something truly special in the modular department. Samsung is also unafraid of trying new things that might make sense to its business. Look for Samsung to be a major player in the modular space.

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It Could Alter the Course of Android Development

Android could arguably be the technology most at risk of changing with Project Ara. One of the nice things about closed devices is that the software bundled with them is designed to work efficiently with the specs of the respective product. Project Ara assumes that everyone has their own set of components based on their needs, which means vendors can't predict what the operating system needs might be. That could force Google to take a more restrictive stance with software development or force those tinkering with its software to support anything and everything to accommodate all customer needs. The question, then, becomes, will that create a bloated Android? Many questions surround Android's integration with Project Ara.

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It Could Even Change Software Development

If Project Ara is going to change the face of Android, mobile developers and even component vendors will also have some issues. On the software side, developers will need to build apps that can take advantage of a wide array of component combinations. On the hardware side, companies will need to be sure that when certain components are added to others, overheating, battery problems or any other number of issues don't pop up. Project Ara is a real game-changer.

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Can Aesthetic Catch Up to Customizability?

As of this writing, it appears Google's focus with Project Ara is customizability. But as recent mock-ups have shown, the devices are boxy, look like poorly put together puzzles and aren't nearly as attractive as today's closed-down handsets. Google will need to find a way to make Project Ara handsets more attractive or face the possibility of losing out on customers.

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Size Will Matter

Although the concept of Project Ara means customers will be able to choose screen size, Google will need to work hard to ensure the add-ons don't cause devices to become overly thick. Google says that it's working on designs that will limit thickness and reflect today's ultra-thin handsets, but as customers add more components, who knows how that will affect overall mobility?

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Is It Only for Gadget Gurus?

The technology industry is abuzz with the possibilities surrounding Project Ara, but it's unclear whether the average consumer will want to get in on the device. After all, the typical person has no time to waste finding different components for a device and hot-swapping them on the way to work; they just want a smartphone that looks nice and works. The hardest sell for Google will be making consumers think they really need something only the geeks are drooling over.

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Price Will Be a Major Concern

Although Time is reporting that Google can get the price of a Project Ara device down to $50, let's be clear: That's a starting price. As customers buy more add-ons, that price will ostensibly go up considerably. Price, therefore, will be a big concern for customers, and something that Google will need to work on before the project launches.

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