5 Modules Google Inc. (GOOGL) Should Consider for Its Smartphone

Google Inc (GOOGL) will begin testing its modular smartphone in Puerto Rico this month

by Alex Eppstein

Published on Jan 21, 2015 at 2:29 PM
Updated on Apr 20, 2015 at 5:32 PM

I'm hardly a tech enthusiast, but even my ears perked up when I heard that Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) would be kicking off a trial of its modular smartphone this month in Puerto Rico. The phone -- developed as part of "Project Ara" -- looks so incredibly unlike any handheld I've ever seen. And, having been developed by GOOGL, the phone is likely to be innovative in more ways than just aesthetics.

As I understand it, the phone will consist of a metal "endoskeleton," to which different modules -- with varying capabilities -- can be affixed. In other words, the hardware's just as customizable as the software. So, a developer could hypothetically create a module for every and any niche interest.

What exactly this will look like, in practice, I have no idea. Like I said, I'm no techie … and, frankly, I'm not even creative. Nevertheless, I took some time to think up a few ideas for Project Ara, in case anyone out there wants to take a stab at developing one or more of them.

  1. Keyboard: The Typo keyboard case has been a hit with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone users, so why not offer the same sort of option for Ara users? Instead of a case, you could just snap on a keyboard module, potentially giving BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) enthusiasts a reason to switch to GOOGL.

  2. Digital Highlighter: I still like to read physical books, and there are times when I want to save a memorable line or passage for future reference. While digital highlighters are on the market -- for example, C-Pen and Scanmarker -- it would be much more convenient if a module simply turned my phone into a digital highlighter.

  3. Synched Devices: Imagine a four-pack of modules that come pre-synched, so one user can track the movements of others in real-time. Sure, there are apps that offer similar GPS-type functionality, but the ease of snapping on an already synched module -- rather than downloading an app, locating the person(s) to follow, and asking for approval -- could offer some benefits, particularly for the non-tech-savvy.

    Another possibility is a module that could be synched to a user's TV, DVR, video game console, or computer. Again, there are devices and apps that do similar things in piecemeal fashion, but why not have a single module that can do it all?

  4. Fitness and Health: Fitness apps and devices are all the rage, so a module that can track exercise, sleep patterns, and other behaviors makes sense. Imagine slipping a tiny module into your pocket, going for a run, snapping it back onto your phone, and having all the data made immediately available.

    Similarly, devices like TellSpec are designed to detect the ingredients in food. A module that allows a user to do this from his or her phone could be a boon for those looking to track calories or avoid certain ingredients -- without having to carry another device.

  5. Speakers: For years, smartphone users have been putting their phones in docks equipped with speakers in order to get better sound quality. A module that can improve the inherent sound quality of a phone would be excellent for users that want to play songs directly from their phone, when a docking station and/or headphones aren't available.

While there are no guarantees, my money is on Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) -- and the independent developers designing modules -- to make Project Ara a hit. The tech firm's stock could certainly use some good news. GOOGL shares are down nearly 12% year-over-year to trade at $515.50.

Daily Chart of GOOGL since January 2014


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