Soon, 'make' your own smartphone
CUSTOMISING your smartphone used to be about apps, wallpapers and ringtones.
Now, Motorola wants to give users the chance to customise the phone itself.
The Google-owned handset company has taken the lid off Project Ara, a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones.
The goal is to allow users to swop hardware components at will. Motorola says it wants to "do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines".
This is how it works.
An endoskeleton, or structural frame, provides different slots for different modules, such as a display, keyboard or extra battery. Each slot has metal contacts that connect the insert to the rest of the phone.
This means that faulty modules can be swopped out or modules upgraded as innovations emerge.
The idea is that the handset could last much longer than today's smartphones, for which new models are typically introduced annually.
"Our goal is to drive a more thoughtful, expressive, and open relationship between users, developers, and their phones," Motorola wrote in a company blog post on Monday.
"To give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it's made of, how much it costs, and how long you'll keep it."
The project has been in development for more than a year. It has already roped in Mr Dave Hakkens, the creator of Phonebloks, a company with a similar idea that has garnered nearly a million supporters online.
Motorola expects to release an alpha version of a module developers' kit this winter.
In the meantime, it is letting enthusiasts sign up to be "Ara Scouts" - interested members of the community who can give feedback and share ideas about the design.
The most active members will get free devices when Project Ara launches, which Motorola says should be about a year from now.