Google’s modular Ara phone update was easily my favorite announcement from I/O 2016. It also turned out to be one of the most controversial.
Many of us, Verge readers and writers alike, have awaited the arrival of a modular phone ever since we first saw Dave Hakkens’ 2013 Phonebloks concept video. We’ve envisioned a modular CPU, GPU, battery, display, sensors, and memory, in addition to things like cameras, GPS, fingerprint sensors, kickstands, microphones, Amazon Dash buttons, E Ink displays, and of course, lasers. We also want it to be as thin as every other flagship smartphone around. But Ara isn’t that, to the annoyance of Vlad Savov and other prominent voices in tech.
Instead the Ara frame includes a non-removable display, battery, CPU / GPU, memory, and sensors. The Ara modules are the things you’ll be able to remove and swap into new generations of frames in form factors yet to be developed. Maybe they’ll take on the shape of smart video doorbells, or clock radios, or tablets. We don’t know, and for some that’s part of the fun. True, it’s not the phone we wanted — and it's not as open and environmentally friendly as Hakkens once hoped — it’s much more than that says Dieter Bohn, who will not be Dieterred.
Nevertheless, as a project, I think we all can celebrate its utter Googliness. Question is, who here is willing to purchase the first generation Ara device and how much are you willing to pay for an Ara frame plus all the modules needed to match the capabilities of today’s flagship smartphones?
Maybe you think that as a phone, Ara will barely be able to compete with today's $200 Android phones from Huawei, Xiaomi, or Oppo. Or maybe you’d be willing to pay as much as you would for the latest iPhone or Galaxy S flagship because Ara could be the next big thing. Or, perhaps you’re an unflinching environmentalist who’s okay with paying more for the flexibility Ara might give you as more devices are introduced.
Personally, I probably won’t buy the Ara phone in 2017 just like I didn’t buy a Google Glass or Apple Watch. What about you?
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