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

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

Jan 21, 2015 at 2:29 PM
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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.

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