How would it look to you next smartphone will you order your hardware (for example, to combine the stronger processor with a modest camera or vice versa), and when it gets old, can you change any subsystems you consider obsolete?
That's what smartphone, thanks to which one can use the latest technology without having to buy every now and then a new device, will be released in 2015 by Google and two lesser known manufacturers - Vsenn and Circular Devices.
Common feature of the models of all three companies? They will be modular, that is, they will be supported by a variety of available components, from which the user will choose which one he wants and assemble them on the "frame" of the phones. Conversely, the parts will be removed equally easily to replace them.
In this way, these models promise each prospective buyer that for the first time he will be able to adapt them to the functions he considers most important. Also, for the first time, the user will be able to extend the life of the phone by refreshing the hardware.
Based on what the three companies have released so far, it seems that Google has the lead, having developed the idea that the first modular smartphone is expected to be launched in the 1 quarter of 2015. The reason is that the development of modular telephones, made under Project Ara, has begun more than one year ago. Thus, project chief Paul Eremenko not only has given enough interviews on how the concept will be implemented, but has shown original smartphone smartphones to be running.
From these elements, it is first of all distinguished that three "different" scaffolds will be available, with 10, 18 and 28 positions, respectively, for fitting parts. In these positions, he will have the freedom to assemble the subsystems he wants - such as processor and memory, camera, biometric sensors and a screen with an analysis of his liking.
In addition, in the case of certain hardware categories (such as batteries), it can add two components of the same type to its device, while changing any subsystem will be done without disabling the smartphone. Equally important is that modular smartphones will start at low prices: the basic "kit" will cost 50 dollars and will consist of a "skeleton", a screen, a Wi-Fi chip, a battery and a modest processor performance.
Compared to "Project Ara" models, the Vsenn Finnish start-up modular smartphone will offer less flexibility as the parts being replaced will be the camera, battery, and RAM. But even so, in fact, these are the three "pillars" that largely determine the user experience, as well as the hardware that gets older faster.
At the same time, Vsenn also emphasizes the fact that, in addition to hardware, it will also deal with the software of its devices by pre-arranging services to ensure the privacy of their owners. This is because it will provide free access to a VPN, as well as a secure Cloud service.
On the operating side, smartphones will use Android, which was also chosen by Finnish Circular Devices for the first "generation" of its own modular phones, called Puzzlephone. Each Puzzlephone will include three assembled parts: the "Brain" with the CPU and the camera, the "Spine" with the display and the speakers, and the "Heart" with the battery and the rest of the electronics.
According to Circular Devices, the first "generation" of its phones is expected to be available in the second half of next year. Then there will be new models that will be compatible with other functional ones like Windows Phone or Firefox OS.
Three and ZTE
Along with Google, Vsenn and Circular Devices, ZTE, which has named Eco Mobius their development project, also has plans for the release of prefabricated smartphones. The Chinese company had unveiled prototype smartphones and "spare parts" at last year's CES technology show in Las Vegas, revealing that users will be able to remove and remove all components except the screen. However, in the intervening period, it has not made known more details about the course of the project, nor about the launch schedule of the models.
Regardless, however, when the devices of the four companies will be released on the market, it is certain that the commercial success of all will depend first and better on how much variety they will offer on compatible components. This is because only if they offer several choices to available subsystems to the consumer will in fact confirm the advantages of the modular phone concept.
This in turn will be judged largely by the partnerships they will be able to secure, given that apart from ZTE, all other companies do not build hardware. In this respect, Google's specific "weight" seems to have already worked positively for Project Ara, as some well-known names in the electronics industry have agreed to produce compatible subsystems. Among them, Toshiba, Foxconn, Rockchip processor maker and Taiwanese Quanta Computer.
However, both Google and Vsenn and Circular Devices have set "open" standards for the development of compatible subsystems, from which they themselves will not receive any kind of commission. Thus, they expect that along the way they will attract several manufacturers - from giant companies to amateurs.