Motorola's Project Ara: 10 Reasons It's Good News for Smartphone Buyers

1 - Motorola's Project Ara: 10 Reasons It's Good News for Smartphone Buyers
2 - It's Like Open-Source Android for Hardware
3 - It's All About Deciding Your Needs
4 - The Desktop Model for Smartphone Upgrades
5 - Google Is Behind It
6 - Other Hardware Makers Could Join
7 - Buyers Are Engaged in the Custom Design of the Devices They Order
8 - How Will the Business Model Come Into Play?
9 - The Next Wave of Open Source
10 - A Hardware Standard Might Arise
11 - You Have a Voice in the Future
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Motorola's Project Ara: 10 Reasons It's Good News for Smartphone Buyers

by Don Reisinger

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It's Like Open-Source Android for Hardware

Motorola said it: Project Ara is designed to bring the Android model of providing an open framework to third-party mobile hardware producers. That's something that could both benefit component makers and dramatically change the way smartphones are ordered, assembled and used around the world. It's a major development.

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It's All About Deciding Your Needs

There's something conspicuously missing from today's smartphone spaceā€”the ability for buyers to determine on their own what they want in a device. Right now, companies like Apple, Samsung and even Motorola set product specifications in stone, and customers need to live with that. Motorola's Project Ara attempts to change that dynamic.

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The Desktop Model for Smartphone Upgrades

PC buyers have long had the ability to upgrade their computers with add-on components after they take delivery. They have also been able to customize the specifications of their computers when they order them. Now this model is coming to smartphone. Project Ara seems to follow that plug-and-play experience. According to Motorola, the offering would allow owners to swap out components whenever they come across something new they want in their device. As with desktops, the move would let smartphone buyers who are basically happy with their device to improve their computing experience without being forced to buy a whole new device. The desktop customization model might actually work in mobile.

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Google Is Behind It

Why care about Project Ara? It's Google, isn't it? Motorola might be getting all of the attention around Project Ara, but Google is undoubtedly playing the leading role in its development. Better yet, Google is able to provide the cash that Motorola needs to make it take off. The Google element cannot be underestimated here.

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Other Hardware Makers Could Join

If Project Ara ends up launching as an open-source platform, it would make sense that other hardware makers would join in, if they see it as a workable production model. Motorola might be the first to market with modular devices. But if Project Ara works as well as Motorola apparently expects it will, it might not be long before other handset makers join in as they did in supporting the Android mobile OS.

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Buyers Are Engaged in the Custom Design of the Devices They Order

One of the simple things about buying a smartphone today is that customers need only to determine which product is right for them and they're done. With Project Ara, however, they need to be far more informed about components, their own mobile practices and how different features can come together to create a more-appealing device. Although it might seem like a heavy haul at this point, it could go a long way in establishing more-informed customers in the mobile space.

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How Will the Business Model Come Into Play?

Right now, Motorola is saying that Project Ara will be made available as an open framework for free. So, that begs a simple question: What's the upside for Motorola? The company ostensibly believes that Project Ara will help it generate more hardware sales and keep loyal customers. But is there more to it? Keep an eye on Motorola over the next several months to find out.

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The Next Wave of Open Source

The open-source community is committed to the idea of collective wisdom producing better quality products. But up to this point, the vast majority of open-source projects have stayed in the software realm. With Motorola suggesting it take open-source ideas to hardware, the company could be initiating a new, major frontier for open-source advocates to get excited about and to get involved.

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A Hardware Standard Might Arise

Here's an interesting idea: What if Motorola's Project Ara becomes the standard in the mobile space? If customers find that they like the modular design and want to choose their specifications, Motorola is making it easier for developers to join in. If after that happens, the features hit a critical mass, such modularity could very well become a standard. After all, if it can happen in software with Android, why can't it happen in hardware with Project Ara?

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You Have a Voice in the Future

As noted, Project Ara is all about choice. But the project, if successful, also allows consumers to chart the course of component development. After all, if people decide, for example, that they really like high-end cameras but don't care about an accelerometer, suppliers will need to adapt to that market consensus. Right now, vendors are deciding what components we want. If Project Ara gets off the ground, the buyers will win greater market power.

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