Motorola CEO On Project Ara Modular Smartphone: “There Is A Prototype”

Motorola has embarked on the ambitious and exciting Project Ara, an effort to realize the vision of the PhoneBloks concept of a modular smartphone, and it sounds as though things are rolling along faster than most might expect.

In an interview with YouTuber (and professional ultimate Frisbee player) Marques Brownlee, Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside dropped some information on Project Ara’s progress (around the 12-minute mark). “There is a prototype,” he said. “And it is pretty close [to the original PhoneBloks concept]”.


He said that the device has a basic skeleton, and that “the components literally slide in and out.” However, Woodside also noted that the remaining big hangup is the need for interfaces and protocols to get all those components communicating with each other. The industry currently lacks sufficient standardization for those sorts of interfaces--right now, they’re are all proprietary.

This is a rather monstrous hurdle, but it’s certainly not one that can’t be overcome. Industries thrive on standardization--eg, USB, SATA, PCIe, and so on--and it’s high time mobile devices caught up.

Motorola Project Ara modular smartphone

Woodside didn’t give a timeline for a finished product, but he made it seem as though Project Ara was in active development as opposed to some far-off dream. He said, “Will we have a product in the next 12 months? It’s hard to say.” Reading between the lines, he’s saying that it’s possible to see a product on the market in a year’s time, which would be an extraordinary feat.

As people who live in the enthusiast-class world, it’s hard for us to play down our exuberance over the future portended by Project Ara. Godspeed, Motorola.