Motorola stunned us a few months ago when it announced plans to develop a modular smartphone through a collaboration called Project Ara, but we've yet to see even a prototype of the device. Here at CES, ZTE is showing off its own modular phone concept, named the Eco-Mobius. The model on display is locked behind glass, and try as we did representatives would not remove it from its tomb for a close look. But the concept does show how users could replace the camera, battery, display, and "core" modules. The core includes separate modules for the processor, RAM, storage, and graphics processor.
It's an extremely attractive design. All of the components are snapped together inside of a clear plastic case that conveniently exposes how modular the phone is. However, that's all the Eco-Mobius is for now — it's just an impressive design. As a design concept, this is merely a visual look at what ZTE imagines a modular phone could look like in the future. A representative at ZTE's booth was clear that the company was not developing the phone, though engineers may be working towards addressing the numerous difficulties that must be overcome before a phone like this ever becomes a reality.
ZTE originally announced the Eco-Mobius concept late last year, but this is the first time we've seen the device in person. Both a smartphone and tablet concept are on display at CES, and ZTE's idea is to reduce waste (hence the "eco" in the name). When it first announced the phone, the company said that it imagined a future when users could swap out camera modules depending on the shooting situation, or upgrade their phone when it's no longer powerful enough to run the latest games.
While ZTE is just teasing us with this idea, Motorola appears to be committed to the modular concept. CEO Dennis Woodside said last month that he sees Ara as the future of the company's Moto Maker customization program, and the company hired a manufacturing partner back in November. Woodside also says that there's already an internal prototype. In the meantime, we'll have to continue dreaming of a modular future.
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