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

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2013-10-30 Print this article Print

Google's Motorola is considering a dramatic shift aimed at giving customers flexibility in selecting features and components when they order new smartphones. Motorola announced on Oct. 29 that it's looking for input from potential customers into what they're looking for in a new project the company has dubbed Project Ara. The idea behind Project Ara is simple: Customers should be able to order mobile hardware with the components that best fit their individual needs. But it looks as though there's much more to this than simply giving customers more choice in smartphone specifications. In a blog post announcing the effort, Motorola's Paul Eremenko said that his company would like to "do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software." To do so, Motorola would turn the platform into a free, open-source opportunity for other companies to "lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development times," Eremenko said. Project Ara is ambitious, if nothing else. If it becomes a reality, it could very well be the next frontier in innovation in the mobile space. And for that reason alone, mobile device users should take notice. This slide show looks at the reasons why mobile device users should closely watch the development of Project Ara.

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

    by Don Reisinger
    1 - Motorola's Project Ara: 10 Reasons It's Good News for Smartphone Buyers
  • 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.
    2 - It's Like Open-Source Android for Hardware
  • It's All About Deciding Your Needs

    There's something conspicuously missing from today's smartphone space—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.
    3 - It's All About Deciding Your Needs
  • 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.
    4 - The Desktop Model for Smartphone Upgrades
  • 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.
    5 - Google Is Behind It
  • 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.
    6 - Other Hardware Makers Could Join
  • 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.
    7 - Buyers Are Engaged in the Custom Design of the Devices They Order
  • 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.
    8 - How Will the Business Model Come Into Play?
  • 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.
    9 - The Next Wave of Open Source
  • 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?
    10 - A Hardware Standard Might Arise
  • 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.
    11 - You Have a Voice in the Future

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