dave hakkens is the person who really inspired the modular smartphone movement and brought it to prominence (buglabs was the first to really implement the concept, almost a decade ago). however we don't really have an actual explanation of what went wrong with project ara. here's some hints (search in this document for "ara" obviously): http://rhombus-tech.net/whitep...
basically it's down to the fact that google has more money than they have creative sense. they therefore tried to use "financial brute force" to solve problems. the summary is: with their financial resources they created a "backbone standard" called MIPI UniPro... forgetting that in the process it would be patented by the partners, thus AUTOMATICALLY locking out ANY kind of interoperability and competition for the next 20 years. how, exactly, is that supposed to be "open"???
if we want modular smartphones to be successful, we need PROPERLY OPEN STANDARDs that have no vendor lock-in, but that are also properly protected by a Certification Mark (the standards-equivalent of a Trademark) and a Foundation (or CIC or Benefit Corporation), which is given the financial clout by its sponsors to jump on anyone who wrongly implements the standard in such a way as to cause short-circuits (and end up killing someone due to lithium battery fires for example). it's not like a software standard, where interoperability failures cause a segfault: a HARDWARE fault can genuinely be dangerous.
also the standard needs to be made up of *other* standards that are unencumbered and royalty-free, so that companies and makers alike are incentivised to create modules (using 3D printers and low-cost off-the-shelf circuits), for example this one, under development: http://elinux.org/Embedded_Ope... . Google *literally* did the total opposite of this strategy in every single conceivable way. paying companies to develop new chipsets (patented, proprietary) and saying "here! it's open! sign our NDA, agree to our policy, and you'll be fiiiine!" i'm just staggered by the naivety of a billion-dollar company that had to add me to a special list "stop phoning this person to invite them to interview, you've called them five times already over the past 10 years".
the other thing is, whilst i am delighted at dave's success in bringing the benefits of modularity to a wider audience, he doesn't have any technical knowledge. he views an *increase* in the number of companies on the phonebloks.com front page as being a good thing. the key question which illustrates the point without having to spell it out: are any of the products listed on the phonebloks page interoperable in *any* way?
so. if there is anybody who would like to see this done properly - in an open fashion so that the mistakes of both google and fairphone are not repeated (see http://blogs.fsfe.org/pboddie/...) do reach out on the arm-netbook mailing list http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/mail... i've been investigating and researching this for years and waiting for the right opportunity. often it's good to wait for "big" corporations to fail to deliver, because it means that the hugely-public lessons sink in. a "small person" saying "this ain't gonna work no matter how much money they throw at it" tends not to be believed until the predicted failure comes about.
just as i did with the successfully-crowd-funded modular libre eco-laptop i've set up a stub page (for now) http://rhombus-tech.net/commun... which is a hybrid phone that acts "dumb" and may be upgraded to "smart" by plugging in a computer-on-a-module in Compact-Flash form-factor. "peripheral modules" can be done by re-using 8-pin SIM Card connectors. these are already available in massive volume: they also carry quite a lot of current. 8 pins is just enough to carry Power, USB and 4 signals (suitable for audio PWM for example). it's *not* necessary to spend $250,000 on tooling of new connectors. it's *not* necessary to spend $200m+ on new chipsets. we *really can* do this in a truly open and community-driven fashion, based on sponsorship instead of VC funding.