If you’ve been on the look out for tech news today, you’re probably well aware of the big splash that Motorola made with its Project Ara reveal. But Motorola’s modular smartphone project won’t be yet another walled garden and has enlisted the community-centric input of Phonebloks. Now Phonebloks instigator Dave Hakkens is telling all about this curious collaboration with the Google-owned company and his own plans for the future.
Motorola says the seeds for Project Ara has been planted almost a year ago and even then the concept of a modular device is definitely nothing new. However, the pace really picked up when the Phonebloks concept video started to go viral last month. Dutch designer Dave Hakkens, the brains behind Phonebloks, initially intended to design a smartphone for environmentally-conscious users, as one of the selling points of the concept is that you don’t need to throw away a whole smartphone just to upgrade parts of it. The reception that Phonebloks got, however, proved that the concept appealed to a wider range of users and caught the attention of big names in the industry, one of which was Motorola.
How Motorola proceeded was somewhat unprecedented. Where most companies would try to squash small fry competition, sometimes with the threat of litigation, Motorola instead opted to adopt an open path, not unlike the open source nature of Android that its parent company, Google, develops. Motorola has the technical know-how, but, to be able to truly claim openness, it needed to build a community around it and get input from outside sources. That is where Dave Hakkens comes in. Instead of working for Motorola, which apparently was the original offer, Hakkens opted to remain outside and develop the community from there, which gives him the freedom to steer Phonebloks in its own direction should Motorola decide to take Project Ara somewhere else. Phonebloks has uploaded a video explaining this development in the project’s overall goals.
At this point, some of the details of this quite exciting collaboration are still vague or even scarce. One thing that’s certain is that Phonebloks will continue as an independent endeavor, without funding from Motorola, which is why it is still looking for and accepting financial support. The group has already been approached by component manufacturers interested in producing “bloks” for the modular phone, but Hakkens has his sights first on making a standard specification and then making hardware that actually works. Then they can get to decide things like whether the phone would even run Android at all.