Project Ara: First impressions

Our guest editor is happy about the idea of custom-built devices.

COMMENT: Yes. Yes. And once more YES!

I have waited sooooo long for an initiative such as this to appear. I want to be able to buy my phone to suit my needs. If that means that I have to specify the parts to go into it, so be it.

"Ah!" you might say, "but you're a computer geek!"

Yes, there are more questions than answers at the moment. But I, for one, applaud this initiative. If we can allow manufacturers to focus on their strengths and streamline their production, then all the better.

So? I see no reason why building a mobile phone should be any different from building a charm bracelet from Troll or Pandora beads. The construction of a personal mobile phone should be "connect and go" with no soldering or trying to jam a unit into a socket or swearing and then blaming "them" for being idiots because "they" made the module I have spilt blood over and subsequently, inadvertently, destroyed any hope of a warranty repair because bits of my fingers, millilitres of my blood and bent connections are out of the scope of the warranty It is entirely possible to create a simple environment to build a phone out of compatible hardware.

I want a good lens - never underestimate the role the lens plays in your multi-megapixel camera. Nokia has used Carl Zeiss lenses to good effect over the years why not create a modular image capture unit featuring CZ lenses and a good processor from your favourite digital camera manufacturer?

What about stereo speakers from your choice of any of the major speaker manufacturers? The latest, greatest processors? A fingerprint processor? A larger battery for people who use their phone heavily during the day? A phone without a camera for sites with issues of privacy (or even just hand in the lens/image processor at reception)? What about only buying parts from responsible manufacturers who only use recyclable material in their manufacturing process?

The opportunities are endless. It would also create a market for other specialist, non-phone manufacturers to bring their expertise and hardware to the market (I'm looking at you, Bose, and you, Nikon).

Admittedly, this is currently all "Cloud Cuckoo Land" as Apple and Microsoft are hardly likely to embrace a standard which would undermine their proprietary hardware platforms; I can kiss goodbye to my Carl Zeiss lens.

Google has less to fear as it is behind this project, but it may raise some queries about the role that the increasingly proprietary Android platform will play. What about drivers for a potential myriad of hardware? What happens to the "Bedroom Boffins" who write apps for a well-known and prescribed hardware platform? The role of Google/Motorola in licensing the platform might leave the idea dead in the water.

Yes, there are more questions than answers at the moment. But I, for one, applaud this initiative. If we can allow manufacturers to focus on their strengths and streamline their production, then all the better as we head towards my (and your) optimum phone, sourced from "Best of Breed" modules.

One final wish? The standard must agree on only one ONE power charging and interface adapter. I'm looking at you, Apple

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