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Google's modular smartphone should be easy to recycle

16 April 2014 - 14:45 by Mike Price

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Last year a number of plans for modular smartphones were made public, with the idea that this could curb the wasteful upgrade cycle into which many people are locked and, instead, make it easier to improve a phone piece by piece over a number of years, rather than replacing everything in one go.

Now Google has revealed more information about Project Ara, its own modular smartphone scheme, which looks set to be impressively sustainable, thanks to the ease with which individual elements will be recyclable.

Although Project Ara is still a bit of a pipe dream at the moment, a video created by Google has outlined a number of ideas that are helping to turn it into a reality.

Essentially, it will be compartmentalised by component, a little like a desktop PC, so that users can swap out the screen, processor, camera, battery and all sorts of other under-the-skin gizmos, that would normally be locked down and impossible to remove.

Google is not looking to make a one size fits all Ara handset, but will instead attempt to create three distinct designs, which have room for a different number of modules.

Magnets will hold everything in place, so the components will not need to be screwed or secured in by owners in any complicated or dangerous manner. And this also means that recycling bits of the phone at the end of their usable lifespans will be much simpler than in almost any other instance seen so far.

Google is planning to get Project Ara off the ground and into shops at the start of next year, with the base model costing as little as around £30 under current plans. So we could very well be entering a new era of highly upgradable and recyclable smartphones.