From a previous blog post on TNM

The popularity of Phonebloks, and its impending KONY-like thunderclap campaign brings to light the idea that we need gadgets that are easily serviceable, and built to last. Technically, it’s a pipe dream, Fairphone’s goals seem more realistic and humane, not to mention affordable. What’s worse is our reality, where flagship smartphones with  user-replaceable batteries and expandable memory slots are a dying breed. Before Apple releases a diamond-studded iPhone, let’s try and fight planned obsolescence by protesting loudly to our tech overlords that our gadgets should be forever.

In recent news, Motorola will be working with Phonebloks on a new project called Ara – showing how quickly the tech industry can pivot on a good idea.  The concept was powered by a crowd-sourced social media campaign that had a reach of over 350 million.

We want to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines.

Whether they’ll actually be able to pull it off, skirting FCC regulations and technical constraints remains to be seen. Motorola is pitching at doing to the mobile hardware ecosystem, what Android did to the mobile app ecosystem. And that is a loaded statement.

From a technical perspective it’s a real uphill task – a modular smartphone is likely to fall to bits when you drop it – and modularity will also make it thicker and failure prone. It would require a protective case that keeps all those pieces tightly woven together.

If other OEMs join the Phonebloks platform, that would be nothing like anything we’ve seen before in the mobile industry. Yeah we’re looking at you Micromax, now a maker of non-expandable memory phones and soon to be a maker of Windows phones.  Feel like you dropped the ball on this?

Considering Indians use their mobile phones for an average of eight years, it would be nice to see some other global OEMs also join the bandwagon. Is that a part of Motorola’s plan too? Or is it just another gated community thing?

A lot of questions still remain. What’s the price premium one is expected to pay for such a design? Will there be one monolithic model, uniform in size, or will there be a fleet of Ara phones, at different sizes, prices, new models and upgrades each quarter?  Are Ara phones going to revolutionize the supply-chain side of things too, to ensure that factory workers, mines and minerals aren’t exploited? Hope they pick up some ideas from Fairphone on the way.

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