Google hasn’t completely given up on modular phones after all

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Google has lost all interest in modular phones now. The first clue was when the ambitious Project Ara was abandoned.

If that wasn’t enough, it couldn’t get rid of Motorola fast enough – and that has gone on to make the best version of the modular dream we’ve seen so far: the Moto Z3 Play.

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Apparently not everyone at Google got the memo though, as a new patent uncovered by T3 shows that the company still has one or two ideas of how it might work.

Google’s vision is somewhere between the truly modular Project Ara and the clip-on simplicity of Motorola’s Moto Mods. In this version of things, the smartphone is split into three parts: the main handset with screen and main hardware, the modules to upgrade it and a case that holds everything in place.

As you can see from the sketch below, the modules clip onto a lip below the main phone part.

So what could these upgrades be? Google hasn’t made up its mind, with the list feeling more like a brainstorming session rather than firm plans: “Audio devices, gaming devices, fitness devices, scanning devices, imaging devices, user input devices, haptic devices, memory devices, or display devices.”   

One particularly promising module envisaged by Google is a camera plug in. While Motorola offers a Hasselblad camera amongst its Moto Mods, the potential here is far greater. Camera mods could include their own dedicated processing hardware, allowing features that go far beyond what current phone cameras can achieve.

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Before you get too excited, it’s worth including the standard patent disclaimer, which is that companies of Google’s size patent things all the time, and often do nothing with the filed plans. Last year alone Google published nearly 400 of the things.

Still, at the very least it’s nice to know that someone at Google hasn’t completely abandoned the modular dream. Maybe the Pixel 5 or 6 will shake up the smartphone world a lot more than the usual iterative updates…

Would you like a modular phone or is a sleek design more important? Let us know on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.