Other than giving its Android OS free of cost to other mobile manufacturers, Google also makes its own Smartphones and tables under the Nexus brand. So what did Google had in mind when it acquired Motorola back in August 2011. It is now emerging that Google in-fact had very big plans for Motorola under its sleeve.

Project Ara from Motorola

Motorola has recently announced a new initiative called ‘Project Ara’ which lets consumers decide what features and components they want in their Smartphones. This kind of facility was hitherto only available with desktops and has to a certain extent in laptops from manufacturers like Dell. Simply put, Project Ara gives a standard Smartphone ‘skelton’ which can be extended by adding the desired components by the consumers.

What are the Benefits and Limitations of Project Ara?

The possibilities that Project Ara throws open could be a lot. One obvious benefit is doing away with the need to design multiple Smartphone models for different consumer segments. As consumers can pick what ever features they want in their phones, a collection of 4 to 5 ‘standard endoskeletons’ would be enough. The second benefit would be for the consumer in the form of increased lifetime for their Smartphones. Consumes can simply add a new feature in the market to their existing Smartphones without the need to buy a new phone. The extended lifetime of the gadgets built on Google’s Android (which is the default OS of Motorala’s devices) can make customers getting locked-up to Google. As Google never makes any money through Android directly but just makes more people to use different Google services through it, extended lifetime of gadgets will prevent customers from switching to other ecosystems like iOS and Windows Phone.

Consumers with specific needs like extra battery life and a more sophisticated camera can get them by just shelling out a few dollars more. Customization of Smartphones also means the ability to add features which are needed by very less number of consumers. Some kind of sensors which measure heart beating and oxygen levels in the body are needed only by niche consumer segments like sports persons and patients of chronic diseases.

However, as was proven in the case of Dell, customization doesn’t mean infinite possibilities. Components need to be made in different sizes for different standard endoskeletons. Rapid technological advancements in the field of mobile telephony means that older chips and network standards ((2G, 3G, etc.) can’t be used forever. When the time comes for upgrading such core hardware and technologies, there will not be any other way than replacing the whole of the Smartphone. Google also needs to convince the customers to keep on using the same phones for longer periods despite the outdated looks of older Smartphone models. As consumers look for more aesthetic value in their Smartphones than on Desktops/Laptops, this could be big challenge to deal with.

Some critics also pointed out that customization can make Smartphones bulky due to the free space that needs to be left out to accommodate future updates.

Bottom-line

Despite some of the limitations mentioned above, there is no doubt that Project Ara will open new possibilities for Google and the whole mobile phone industry looking for new growth avenues. This will also augment the process of commoditization of smartphones just like it happened in the case of PCs. Competitors of Google like Apple and Microsoft will watch this development with lot of attention. I will be updating my readers on the future developments related to Project Ara.

Just keep following my blog!