Project Ara lives on

Discussion in 'Android OS' started by Mi An, Feb 26, 2014.

  1. Hook

    Hook Phone Killer ;-) Arrrrr...f

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    Google seems to like to make themselves the authority on what people do and don't like to think about (like SD cards). Sadly, they may be right about much of the market, but it is really annoying and the same reason I try to thwart or not use Google apps that seem to want to know what I'm thinking (like Google Now). :vbeek: :vbrolleyes:
     
  2. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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    I hear you, but I think this is less about Google's older ICS era authoritarian bent and more an off the cuff attempt to put a good spin on regress. In other words, I don't think their stated reason is their actual reason. What they were doing was insanely ambitious to start. Someone (presumably in the management switch) decided to scale it back dramatically without actually admitting that they were scaling back, so the spin is they're just giving the customers what they want. It's progress! not regress. :vbrolleyes:

    After thinking about it, I went from all out completely sold on Ara, would have sold even an amazing phone for a sub-par ara build and waited for better components to now being completely uninterested. It's not just the processor and RAM, I gather even the display is demodularized now. It was a massive scale back, and I can understand them wanting to blunt the impact of that-- they've done a fairly good job of it. The press on Ara today is pretty positive. What the team had going for them was that awareness of Ara was quite limited. Google's original plans were to literally target the next 5 billion users who are unserverd or underserved by the luxurious developed world smartphone model, and to highlight a little among hobbyists and enthusiasts. Most readers and a lot of writers didn't realize the scope of the project so they won't notice just how much it has shrunk in the past year. What little they knew about it before was as a niche product, and it remains that now.
     
  3. raspabalsa

    raspabalsa Brain stuck BogoMipping

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    I find the new Ara focus extremely disappointing. I do care about processor, and RAM, and storage - internal and external - , and display, so much that those are the main requirements I set whenever I purchase a phone. I had hopes that Ara would let me hand pick those features. Now all they give us is the chance to select stuff like a camera, a heart rate sensor, a second SIM card module, or maybe a finger print sensor. I don't think this can be called a revolution anymore, especially since the LG G5 already offers some of that.

    I'm guessing that the technical challenges were a major part in that decision. It must be really hard to fail-safe a hot-swappable device against the common user, especially if we're talking about CPU or RAM. And especially if we're talking about the common user, which I guess most of the BH users are not :( . Another guess is that rather than outright say that the technology isn't ready, their PR people decided it's much better to call everyone a sheeple, offer the google common divisor and call it a day. But maybe it's not so dark as that.... surely in a few years the hardware will have improved and we'll have a really modular phone. Hopefully modularity will gain momentum and more companies will decide to experiment with this concept.
     
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  4. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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    Oh yeah, this is evolutionary. I think there were different perspectives on the technological challenges from two different management teams. For 2 years, these challenges were known, and the original team continued to chip away at them and move toward a market pilot. These were very smart people. Then just before the market pilot, there was a big management shakeup related to ATAP's DARPA-styled culture where they don't leave a project with one team beyond a certain point. I think the new management team decided to scale it back for reasons other than technological challenges.

    I too hope this will be a stepping stone to modularity of more than mere peripherals, but I have serious doubts. LG added a little bit of optional modularity to an established brand. Google is offering more, but they're also building a new brand at the same time. The original Ara's potential market was huge, despite misconceptions to the contrary in the popular press. Googorola really looked at unserved and underserved markets and tried to figure out what needed to change to engage them. They called this market the next 5 billion users, and while it might not have literally been 5 billion large, I think it did measure in the billions. The original design was not designed for a niche market.

    This new watered down Ara is very niche (unless perhaps it is insanely cheap), and I'm not sure who their base market is, that is who keeps the product alive long enough to grow it into something more and who would adopt it early. The expected niche of desktop PC builder-esque, xdaish enthusiasts that some press thought would be the entire market for the original fully modular project isn't likely to find this watered down version very compelling. And the more mainstream audience they claim doesn't care about core components are already well-served and prefer to buy what their friends have and also avoid the complication of exploring new brands. What's left appears to be people with incredibly niche health and hobby requirements, who might be much better served with auxillary 3.5mm, usb and especially bluetooth accessories.

    With such a small audience, it's hard to imagine a cheap price tag. If you look at some community maker style niche hardware projects, they can be very expensive for lack of scale. Ordinary buyers often see those price tags and think they're being ripped off and refuse to evaluate the product further on principle. To keep Ara alive, I think Google needs to offer a base unit that competes with the Honor 5x, Moto g/e and cheap lumias (as well as xiaomi gionee et al) in less developed countries in Eastern Europe, S. America and Asia, as well as prepaid markets everywhere. Doing that at this stage (with this space being pretty competitive) would likely require a high tolerance for sub zero profit. And this is chasing the already connected market -- I don't think they stand a chance to expand the market much with this offering. Then if they can build the brand respectably enough, a fully modular Ara 2 could shake things up and benefit some from having convinced a mass of users to dip their toes in the water so the modules seem more familiar and less foreign. But I don't actually expect to see this strategy. Their promotional materials right now appear to be targeting Brooklyn/Portland hipsters. That does not bode well.

    /rant :vboops:
     
  5. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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    I'm just starting to see negative Ara press, where the bad news rises to the titles or shortly thereafter rather than being tagged to the bottom of the story, sometimes vaguely. Examples:

    Techcrunch's first sentence:
    Google's modular smartphone project sacrificed its original vision to move forward Computerworld - ‎7 hours ago‎

    Project Ara phone won't be as modular as we thought TechnoBuffalo - ‎2 hours ago‎

    Google rethinks Project Ara modular smartphones BBC News - ‎4 hours ago‎

    I don't relish watching this happen at all. :vbfrown: It's outright uncomfortable even though the content of even some of the more dramatic pronunciations is accurate. Most of the stories still look positive-ish, but I sense that the press could be starting to form an opinion and that can snowball pretty fast.

    If Google has a future for Ara, it would be best to get the backlash against the downgrade over with now so it can be old news later this year when dev versions ship and the actual devices can get coverage. But it's hard to tailor a cathartic backlash without risking something darker that leaves a long-lasting bitterness behind. There's something reminiscent of Palm's Cobalt in all this.
     
  6. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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    Before Ara went public, a modular phone concept called phonebloks was publicized and people were entranced. Googorola took advantage of the free press opportunity and partnered with phonebloks to create some community activity and publicity for Ara, but there have always been a few outlets that are really, really in-depth on Ara, and many others that can't be bothered to finish reading a story about it before recycling a few things they don't understand for a blog post, so phonebloks was often called the originator of Ara, as if Google acquired/adopted the idea from them.

    I doubt Google minded the misunderstanding, as long as free media kept rolling in they were happy. However I mention this because that oft-misreported relationship probably makes the most recent news sting a little more. The founder of phonebloks noticed the downgrade (he was far more on the reuse/renew/recycle spectrum than on the hobbyist/enthusiast/superphone spectrum, so the loss of core modularity was an especially big blow), expressed his frustration and this unleashed a torrent of bad headlines reporting his disapproval. Too many to reprint.

    I still hope gen 1 Ara does well somehow and manages to later regrow into the original concept, I just can't imagine how that can happen. Google alienated their only real potential early adopting audience in favor of an audience that already has lots of established choices, and simultaneously appears to have lost the opportunity to effectively sell to the billions whose needs aren't met in the current market. They had built a cheering section in the press to drive free media and limit promotional costs, and their ability to leverage that too is going to be diminished if they can't provide some sort of comeback to stem the tide of press disapproval -- but what would they say? "Nuh-uh"? The honest route might be better, "we're downgrading now, but we hope someday to reembrace the full concept", but it still isn't much of a rallying cry to sell the first generation.
     
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  7. headcronie

    headcronie Greyscale. Nuff Said. Super Moderator

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  8. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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    I finished mourning in May when they ripped its heart out. Core (rather than peripheral) modularity was always too good to be true, tantalizing though it was to see a giant like Google and her many hardware partners (including chip makers) flirting with it.

    My next pipe dream to fantasize over is Lenovo making a Thinkpad-inspired tilting qwerty mod for their moto Zs. There's at least a better chance of that happening than America electing a respectable president in 2016. :vbfrown:
     
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  9. Mi An

    Mi An Nexus Refugee

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  10. Dngrsone

    Dngrsone One Serious Wiku

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    The Moto Z phones are nice, but those add-ons are too pricy.

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk
     
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