Will Google’s modular tech change how consumers buy smartphones?
A cracked smartphone screen, a dead battery or a dip in performance, these days, usually means either a trip to a third party to get it fixed or — for those who have the cash — that it’s time for a new phone. Google’s latest patent, though, indicates that the tech giant may once again be playing with technology that would reshape how we buy, use and think of smartphones and how the gadget and device industry would market and sell them.
The patent lays out a smartphone which allows users to easily swap out its display, sensors, camera or system on a chip, according to Techradar. It also lets users modify the device with additional displays, batteries, enhanced memory and other technological improvements. This isn’t Google’s first exploration of “modular” smartphone technology. The company had been working on a fully modular device under the moniker, Project Ara, but the project was abandoned in 2016.
There have been other recent forays from smartphone vendors into modular designs, though none approach the true modularity of the product in the Google patent. For instance, the recently-released Moto Z is, as a YouTube demonstration indicates, constructed to allow users to easily swap phone covers and batteries and even add in-phone speakers.
But recent devices are limited in what hardware can be swapped out, upgraded and added in comparison to the device in the new Google patent.
Were a truly modular smartphone to come into production, it would mean that users might avoid replacing an entire phone for many years. Rather they could buy and easily install replacement parts as things broke and replace outmoded components as technology improved.
This scenario could mean a drastically different marketing and selling landscape for big smartphone vendors like Apple and Samsung, who often profit from hype built up around the impending launch of a new device (though in the last few years Apple has moved away from “launch event” promotions).
Non-vendor retailers that sell devices would also face big changes, having to carry and promote a range of individual components rather than a line card of different vendor devices.
- Project Ara not dead? This Google patent hints at a modular smartphone – Techradar
- Moto Z Review – The Best Modular Phone! – YouTube
- Should shorter lines for the iPhone 8 concern Apple? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will modular smartphones be the next evolution of the smartphone, and how would retailers like Apple and others have to adapt? Do you see Amazon, Apple and others rushing to develop such devices if Google releases one, and what would be the differentiator in whose becomes the most widely adopted?