I’m not sure Google’s Project Ara modular phone needs a competitor, but it appears to have one, at least in theory, with PuzzlePhone. Don’t worry, this isn’t a 500-piece puzzle you have to put together; it’s far simpler. The PuzzlePhone only has three pieces you can swap out.
The concept project comes by way of the Finnish firm Circular Devices Oy. Like Project Ara, PuzzlePhone aims to offer a handset that lets you pick out or upgrade certain parts. Unlike [company]Google[/company]’s effort, the choices are fewer, which may be a good thing. PuzzlePhone uses what Circular Devices calls the spine, brain and heart to make up a handset. Those represent the display, main electronic components and battery, respectively.
Here’s a short video showing the trio of modules:
[vimeo 79022625 w=500 h=281]
From a hardware perspective, I like the approach. Sure, having dozens of different modules can provide for a truly customizable experience. Keeping it to just three will potentially limit that, but it also removes complexity — something that I think the modular phone space will need to do in order to gain widespread appeal.
On the software side, Circular Devices says it will use an open source, forked version of Android. I’m a little less jazzed about that. It works for Amazon, but Amazon isn’t a startup. I’d rather see the PuzzlePhone work with standard Google Android, which would require a licensing agreement, of course.
When can you get a PuzzlePhone? Hopefully in 2015, as that’s when Circular Devices plans to deliver its ambitious project. In the meantime, maybe Project Ara will take a cue from the simple approach — something that could help it in the long run.