Sheldon PintoMay 23, 2016 17:10:00 IST
After maintaining silence for a very long time, Google's new update on its Project Ara smartphone (and the promo) has indeed gathered a lot of attention, once again. A project that kept getting delayed for years, the modular smartphone has now been confirmed to arrive early next year. And this year for once, TheVerge got their hands on a protoype which actually works.
However the idea for a modular smartphone is not new. In the pre-Apple, Nokia era of smartphones, we had Modu (back in 2008), which came with a number of add-on accessories like a camera, fitness monitor, a physical keyboard for text-messaging and much more. The company however died out pretty quickly and was taken over by Indian smartphone maker Micromax who brought the Modu T to India. But interest in the same died out as Apple showed the consumer (and the industry) that the iPhone was the way to go. But now that every other smartphone today resembles the slate-like design of the Apple iPhone, consumers are losing interest and manufacturers are looking at areas that allow users to extend the usability of the most personal device they have ever owned. Say hello to the modular future of the smartphone!
While Google was one of the players in the modular smartphone industry recently, there have been plenty of new ones that have stepped in and in the process upped the game as well. A recent player is nexpaq. The company which recently achieved its kickstarter goal, is not looking to build a Project Ara look-a-like. Instead its concept (that is expected to turn to reality anytime now) makes use of your existing smartphone. Yes, nexpaq is basically a case that fits on to your existing iPhone or Android smartphone and lets you slide in components that will let you get anything from extended battery life, to a humidity monitor, down to something as simple as flash drive (in case you own an iPhone). All of these components communicate with nexpaq's app that will let you do a lot more with your existing smartphone.
Lapka is another company that specialises in sensor-driven hardware. It has teamed up with Google and working on its own Lapka x Project Ara product line that will allow Ara users to upgrade their smartphones’ cameras, screens, and batteries and other capabilities such as the option to plug in a CO2 monitor or a glucometer. The concept includes seven components – air quality sensor, a CO2 monitor, a light sensor, an EKG node, glucometer and breathalyzer.
Another interesting device that can be purchased today is the Fairphone. The 'fair' bit aside, Fairphone comes with marked components that will literally let you repair and replace the parts that make up your smartphone. One can think of this as a more hardcore version of Google's ARA that literally lets you get your hands dirty.
And then we have the so called modular smartphone that is already on sale today. LG seems to have kickstarted a trend indeed. We say this as the soon to announced Moto X smartphone also been spotted with connectors on the back. A leaked image of what is expected to be the iPhone 6 Plus also shows a Smart Connector on the back; one that could let owners slap on additional components that will let you enhance the capabilities of the smartphone. Still then, apart from the Fairphone 2, there is little that comes close to the Project ARA smartphone from Google.
In short, your next smartphone could either be a boring slab of glass, or something as customised and complex as the one shown in the video below. Eitherways, we can say for sure that modular smartphone is finally here and this is just the beginning.
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