Build Your Own Mobile Device with Google’s Ara, Puzzlephone





Interchangeable components may be the key to a new smartphone revolution. Soon, you’ll likely be able to swap out a lagging processor for an upgraded version. A cracked screen will be no problem if you can just pop in a replacement. If a battery simply won’t hold a charge any longer, a new one can be substituted in a jiffy.

New modular phones allowing you to upgrade features without purchasing a whole new device are in the research-and-development phase and could be in your hands by sometime in 2015.

One such innovative idea is the Google’s Project Ara. Project Ara is a proposed modular smartphone constructed of swappable tiles. These tiles control various key functions of the smartphone as a whole.

But, for example, rather than upgrading your phone’s camera by buying a whole new device, you can simply swap a new camera for the old by popping in a new tile.

The components (about 9 on a recent prototype of the Ara phone) communicate with each other and then the phone, as a whole.

Here’s an overview of Project Ara from The Verge:

Per the current plan, Google would only create the “endoskeleton” of Ara. Other developers would then create the components that snap into place using magnets. And the Project Ara team sees a new ecosystem evolving around the new phones in which these developers would sell new component tiles directly to consumers.

Meanwhile, a Finnish company called Circular Devices is working on Puzzlephone. While Ara contains more than a few parts, Puzzlephone has just three. And if something goes wrong with one of those parts or you want to upgrade, you can simply swap one for another.

The three basic components to Puzzlephone are the Brain, Heart, and Spine, according to a Wired report.

Here’s a quick rundown of each and how they work:

  • The Spine: Comprised of an LCD module display screen, the main buttons for Puzzlephone, as well as the speakers and microphone.
  • The Heart: Where you’ll find the battery.
  • The Brain: The phone’s processor, camera, and volume buttons.

So far Puzzlephone remains one the drawing board and a prototype has yet to be developed. However, Circular Devices hopes to have phones in users’ hands by the end of 2015.

Initial plans are for Puzzlephone to run on Android. There is no indication whether an option could exist to run another mobile operating system like Windows Phone, Firefox OS, or even Sailfish OS in the future.

Image: Puzzlephone

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Joshua Sophy


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Assistant Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, Joshua got his start in the rough and tumble newspaper business of Pennsylvania's coal region. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a beat reporter covering daily news. He eventually founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown. Joshua supervises the day-to-day operations of Small Business Trends' busy editorial department including the editorial calendar and outgoing assignments.

2 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    Hmm pretty nice idea. I just don’t know how well it will be received by the general non-tech public. But I think that it is something interesting that will pique the interest of tech lovers.

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