Motorola aims for do-it-yourself smartphones

Reuters

By Noel Randewich

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Motorola wants to letconsumers design their own smartphones.

The Google-owned manufacturer has launched ProjectAra to create a free, open and standardized platform to letpeople pick and choose the components they want in their phones,Motorola said in a blogpost this week.

The goal is to create a standard endoskeleton, or frame,that can hold different modules, like extra-powerful processors,additional batteries or memory chips for storing more music, allbased on the customer's preferences.

"Our goal is to drive a more thoughtful, expressive, andopen relationship between users, developers, and their phones.To give you the power to decide what your phone does, how itlooks, where and what it's made of, how much it costs, and howlong you'll keep it," Motorola said.

Motorola's vision of do-it-yourself smartphones builds onparent company Google's success with its widely used Androidsmartphone platform, which it offers for free and allowsmanufacturers to customize. Android also gives people moreleeway to tweak the features on their smartphones than Apple's iOS platform offers to iPhone users.

Motorola said it has been working on Project Ara for over ayear and that it recently teamed up with Phonebloks, an opensource project that has also been working on creating modularsmartphone components that can be easily replaced.

The announcement of Ara follows Motorola's launch earlierthis year of the Moto X smartphone, which lets customers choosethe colors of the front and back panels and buttons.

On its website, Phonebloks envisions an online store lettingconsumers read reviews of smartphone components, shop for newand used parts, and order custom-designed handsets.

Project Ara is also a bit of a throwback to the 1980s and1990s, when many technology-handy consumers assembled their owndesktop PCs using hard drives, power supplies, CPUs and othercustom-picked components.

That became less common when laptops, which are moredifficult to customize, became widely used, but computercomponents are still made at standard sizes that can be slottedinto most PCs.

Motorola said it will work on the project openly and createexperimental modules. It plans to invite developers and recruit"Ara scouts" to help research and shape the project.

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