Modular Tech: Hit or Hype? Google's Ara project
At the moment, the trend in the gadget world seem to be headed toward modular tech, a term loosely used to describe a product that gives you the option of changing its different parts in order to better suit your needs. However, despite the hype about modular tech and the advantages it brings to the table, we are not exactly sure if this will indeed be what the future of the gadget world holds for us.
That being said, we took a more discerning look at the more noteworthy modular tech projects, the pros they have to offer, and the cons that come with their packages.
Being its poster child, Project Ara has become almost synonymous with modular tech. Project Ara is headed by Google and aims to develop a basic modular smartphone. When you say basic, it means the phone only includes a case frame, battery, display, integrated Wi-Fi, and a low-end CPU – all available for US$50.
From there on, you have the option of upgrading the phone by putting additional modules or changing out those that came with the basic package. Say for example you want a more powerful CPU, then you could just purchase one and slot it into the smartphone.
Sounds like a great idea, right? It does, in theory. But hardware issues exist in Project Ara and the endoskeleton intended to link all the modules together are chunky when compared to the current smartphones. Estimates put the size increase to approximately 25 percent – a fair trade-off for the versatility it delivers. But are you willing to go for a bulkier and heavier modular smartphone that has the same specs as your friend’s sexier and sleeker non-modular flagship device?
The Blocks smartphones is currently the hottest crowd-funded project. This smartwatch makes use of the Ara concept by having its various modules segmented into its wrist strap. These wrist strap modules add functionality to the core of the watch by including things such as gesture control, extra battery life, contactless payment, and the like.
Aside from having the simple structure of a watch to operate in, the modules of the Blocks smartwatch are made by the same team so interoperability should not be a cause for concern. We are, however, not entirely sold on the whole concept of the Blocks smartwatch for the simple reason that we want our smartwatch to have all functionalities and more in its core and not dependent on what modules we have in its strap.
The future of modular tech
So, does modular tech have a future? Too early to say, at this point. We are, however, excited with what modular tech has to offer, but at this point, we just can’t get over the fact that it is too gimmicky and impractical at the moment. Yes, we do want the ability to have a product customised but we already have that capability with current technology. You have unlimited choices of cases and accessories for any smartphone under the sun in the same way you have the option of replacing the strap of your current smartwatch.
So where does that leave us with modular tech? I guess we just have to wait and see.