We might have to jog your memory back to when the Phonebloks video went viral on social media, inspiring a lot of people to push for a future-proof modular smartphone. The idea behind Phonebloks is to create a smartphone skeleton on open standards, and allow manufacturers to create modules for it, basically negating the need to get rid of the whole phone when something breaks or needs an upgrade. One of the people behind that original idea was Dave Hakkens, a designer from the Netherlands. Truth be told, he isn’t too happy with the updates on Project Ara that Google presented at Google I/O this year.


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One of the major changes that Google made was to incorporate core elements into the skeleton, scaling down the ambitiousness of the project. This means that the Ara skeleton will still have the chipset, antennas, battery, sensors and display of the phone. The six modules available that are replaceable are add-on elements like the camera, better speakers, and more storage among others. Hakkens says that this is a major break from the original Phonebloks vision of a future-proof phone. “It means your phone still gets obsolete after a while,” Hakkens writes in his blog. “What if your screen breaks? Well, you still need to replace the entire phone. And after a couple of years it gets slow and you need to replace your entire skeleton.”

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Hakens also hits Google for making Project Ara a “closed system” in that Google owns it, and in his mind, Google still needs to earn from Project Ara. “A system like this makes other companies want to compete instead of collaborate,” Hakkens says. He says that Google should make the system open so that other manufacturers will be encouraged to build modules for one open system platform.

There are a quite a few angles to this issue. Hakkens did praise Google for taking the idea of a modular phone so far, maybe further than anyone else. But Hakkens feels they have not taken it far enough. We somehow feel that Google was primarily limited by the technology available, but we can’t discount the earning factor. Hakkens says this – Google shouldn’t “focus on making the next phone that sells, but focus on making the future phone.” We have doubts if Google will take Ara as far as it needs to go.

SOURCE: Dave Hakkens