From Google’s Project Ara
Ara is definitely an amazing innovation, and a project that it would be amazing to see come to fruition. It’s also massively ambitious, and not every experimental tech Google develops ends up as a proper shipping project. Modularity has a lot to potentially offer the smartphone market (and could also be very interesting when applied to tablets) but there’s a lot of ground to cover between here and selling these things in stores. Still, if anyone has the resources and runway to make it happen, Google is a pretty good candidate
The TIME profile also sheds light on some of the fundamental mechanics of how Ara works. Modules are designed to slot in to each compartment on the basic chassis interchangeably, regardless of what each does. They’re also hot-swappable, so you don’t need to power down the phone to replace individual parts. Finally, the modules are secured to the device using hardware latches, which use magnets to lock stuff in place. That lock is released using an app of the phone, so that they won’t fall out when jostled or when the phone drops.