Google’s Modular Phone Is Taking Shape

Remember Phonebloks, a.k.a. Google’s Project Ara? It took the internet by storm when it was announced, only to disappear just as quickly. Well the Phonebloks team has been working hard inside the Google skunkworks and the dream of a modular phone is starting to take shape.

Phonebloks is based on a simple concept: we waste too much crap, especially when it comes to gadgets. Often, we throw out whole devices just because one component is broken. That, and it’s just so inexpensive to upgrade to the latest and greatest these days. As a result, we’re throwing away devices and gadgets at a record rate, all of which with poisonous materials that seep into the environment, with the potential to screw it up almost permanently.

That’s where Phonebloks comes in. Rather than replace your whole phone because the screen got smashed while you were drunk or the camera suddenly doesn’t work anymore, it advocates that you just buy a replacement module and keep the rest of the phone that isn’t broken.

This concept also has huge potential for future upgrades. Rather than throw out the iPhone to upgrade to the 5c or the 5s, for example, just buy the new processor module from Apple and a cool new coloured case. Instead of pining for a 41-megapixel, Lumia 1020-style camera, just buy one and slap it onto the board.

The Phonebloks/Ara team are currently working on stuff like design, mountability and a cool app that you can preview what different blocks do.

As far as design is concerned, the Ara team has to make the thing beautiful, as well as robust. They’re working on a bunch of different block designs, including one with a LEGO finish. Rad.

The Ara team is also working on a smart way to actually attach the phonebloks to the chassis using an electromagnet to grab onto the modules.

Check out the video to get a look inside the Mountain View offices too!