We’re not quite sure which of  Motorola’s Advanced Technology And Products (ATAP) team projects seems less likely: a cartoon mouse and sombrero, or teaming up with PhoneBloks to explore the possibility of a modular smartphone. Motorola’s version of the concept is called Ara.

Project Ara is developing a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. We want to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software […]

To give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it’s made of, how much it costs, and how long you’ll keep it … 

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When the PhoneBloks idea was doing the rounds a while back, it looked like one of those superficially appealing ideas that would be hopelessly impractical in reality. Could you really upgrade to a higher-res screen without also upgrading the motherboard, for example? In an age in which aesthetics as well as features drive purchase, could something as ugly as this ever really sell?

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And most crucially of all, would any manufacturer ever want to make a phone that owners might hang onto for years, upgrading the odd component instead of buying a whole new handset?

Motorola seems to think it might.

The design for Project Ara consists of what we call an endoskeleton (endo) and modules.  The endo is the structural frame that holds all the modules in place. A module can be anything, from a new application processor to a new display or keyboard, an extra battery, a pulse oximeter–or something not yet thought of!

The company says that it has been working on the project for over a year, and is now working with the PhoneBloks community to assist development. Since Motorola specifically mentions wanting input from “people in the remote corners of the globe,” we suspect that if this unlikely-sounding concept ever makes it to market, it won’t be in the first world.

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