December 7, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Remember that ambitious modular smartphone platform project that Motorola announced a little over a month ago? Despite the backing from Motorola and now a 3D Printing hardware manufacturing partner, many have written off Project Ara as technically improbable and realistically impossible. Well, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to downplay this potential game-changer.
According to Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside, Project Ara is very much real. So real, in fact, that Dennis stated in an interview with YouTuber Marques Brownlee that a working prototype is just around the corner. While not much was revealed about the device will function, he reiterated the goals of the project:
There is a prototype, and it is pretty close. The idea is you have a skeleton that holds together a set of components, and the components slide in and out. If we have the interfaces and the protocols that enable the speaker to speak directly to the CPU, then this would all be possible.
While vague, this hints at an interface protocol in the MDK, which will be used to standardize all input directly interface with the device processor. Unfortunately, no such standardized protocol currently exists, so there are some large technical hurdles to be overcome. Furthermore, with modularity and standardized interfaces generally comes added bulk. And given recent hipster trends, an extra millimeter or a fruity logo can mean the difference between a device that is considered cool and one that is not.
In addition to the technical challenges, the rest of the increasingly disposable mobile technology industry may not be ready to adopt a user-upgradeable and user-serviceable alternative. This could potentially limit OEM and ODM adoption, as well as keep prices prohibitively high.
Finally, Dennis Woodside also briefly touched upon the success of Moto Maker for the Moto X, and the consumer demand for customizable devices. As such, it’s not unreasonable to anticipate that if and when Ara comes to fruition, it will be launched through Moto Maker. As stated by Dennis:
Moto Maker was the beginning of a more exciting and longer term story, which is how do we involve consumers and give them more choice. Ara is much further out, but you can see how those two things tie together and how as we introduce new materials into Moto Maker we’re gonna pursue that theme across our product line going forward.
What we’d like to eventually get to is functionality within the device, and that’s where Project Ara and Moto Maker may converge.
What are your thoughts on Project Ara? Are you hopeful about its potential or are you too skeptical that its lofty goals will see fruition. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below, and also be sure to make your way over to the MDK Hacking and Discussion forum to get in on the MDK action.
The full interview can be found below, and it is definitely worth your watch if you have any interest in the future of Google-owned Motorola, its upcoming products, or Project Ara and customizable smartphones.
December 4, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
You know those hidden magnets underneath the rear panel of the Google Nexus 5? Well, it was quickly determined that their purpose is to align the phone with the official Qi charger by Google. Unfortunately, however, Google’s official Qi charger is rather pricey at $50, close to five times the cost of a generic Qi charging mat. Furthermore, the new charging mat for the Nexus 5 no longer features the useful angled design of its predecessor, the Qi charger for the Nexus 4.
Luckily, XDA Forum Member kidgenius saw this as an opportunity to live up to his username. As such, he created a thread showing off his home-made angled wooden dock, complete with integrated Qi charger. And since he uses four carefully placed magnets, the device is able to suspend itself in place, using only the power of magnets.
This being XDA, the thread would not be complete without thorough and detailed steps on how to create your own. As such, kidgenius also provided a build log, complete with all the components and steps required to create your own wireless magnetic Qi charger.
We’re not going to lie to you. This will take a substantial amount of work, as well as some woodworking expertise. However if successful, your efforts will be rewarded with a one-of-a-kind homemade dock with all the functionality of the official charger, but at a fraction of the price.
If you’re curious to learn how this was done, or if you want to follow inn kidgenius’s footsteps and create your own, make your way over to the original thread.
November 17, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Remember that interesting hardware mod for the Google Nexus 5 that we talked about yesterday? If not, let me refresh your memory. When XDA Elite Recognized Developer AdamOutler noticed that his Nexus 5′s internal speaker wasn’t up to snuff, he decided to investigate.
Long story short, Adam posits that the speaker performance in some units is affected by glue that has snuck its way into unintended areas. This runny glue, however, doesn’t seem to be a problem for everyone. But on some units, it makes even hearing the ringer troublesome.
After reading Adam’s instructions, XDA Senior Member Oli1122 decided to give the modification a shot. In addition to simply performing the steps, he decided to objectively measure the results. They were impressive, to say the least. After performing the modification, Oli1122 observed a 13 dB increase in sound pressure level.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the logarithmic scale used in SPL measurement, let me put that into more understandable terms. 13 dB of SPL increase corresponds to roughly 2.46x the perceived loudness (since perceived loudness doubles with increases ranging from 6 to 10 dB, depending on frequency and loudness). In other words, this will sound more than twice as loud. Not impressive enough? Let’s consider signal amplitude. The modification resulted in 4.47x the sound pressure level on Oli1122′s device. And if you want to consider power (acoustic intensity), 13 dB equates to 19.95x the required power. In other words, to achieve the same volume level on the flawed unit, you’d have to pump nearly 20x the wattage through the speaker. If this isn’t impressive, I don’t know what is.
Now, it is important to keep in mind that your results will obviously vary. Naturally, the modification will only benefit those units with troublesome glue in the first place. In other words, if your volume is fine, don’t attempt this mod. But if you are aware of the risks and want to give this a go, make your way over to the original thread, read all the steps, and share your results. Do be careful, though. Any hardware mod is inherently risky. As good of a value as the $350 Nexus 5 is, it isn’t quite as much of a steal once you turn it into a paperweight.
November 16, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
The Google Nexus 5 was released 17 days ago, and it was met with nearly unanimous praise. Sure, the camera is
a little bit extremely laggy; but for the first time in recent Nexus device history, it’s actually of passable image quality—especially for the price.
One legitimate concern, however, is the rather low speaker volume, which often makes it hard to hear incoming calls. Strangely, this only seems to affect certain units. Luckily, XDA Elite Recognized Developer AdamOutler looked into the matter, and found that on some units the glue obstructs the speaker chamber ports.
Rather than complain, Adam did what Adam does best, and he fixed the problem—documenting all the steps and tools required in the process. Yes, you’ll need to open your device to perform this fix. Yes, it’s dangerous. But luckily, the steps are well documented and you only need a few simple tools to perform the fix.
To get the complete details on the warranty-voiding procedures, make your way over to the original thread. Do be careful though. While the steps are well described and relatively safe, you are after all performing a hardware mod, which could legitimately damage your device. Proceed with caution.
November 13, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
You hear a lot about app, kernel, and ROM development in the Android development community, and XDA is no exception. However, that’s not all you can do. We’ve discussed it before, but you can do hardware modifications and development with Android and Google’s Accessory Development Kit (ADK).
In this episode, XDA Elite Recognized Developer AdamOutler shows off how to make a “keyboard” for your Android device. Using an Arduino-like board, a USB cable, and some code, he creates a button that when pressed will type whatever message you have programmed for the button. So if you wanted to know more about hardware hacking, Arduino development, or just want to see what cool project AdamOutler is working on, check out this video.
July 17, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
XDA Elite Recognized Developer AdamOutler is a hardware wizard. He can tear apart devices with ease. He can even use some Level 20 spell to turn a phone into a development board, a device that you cannot brick. If it does become “bricked,” you just hook the device up again and reflash kernel and everything.
In today’s episode, after quickly tearing down the Samsung Captivate, he continues by showing how to achieve the right amount of voodoo to get the phone into the proper mode. He then shows you how to manipulate the development board phone on your computer, how to flash XDA Elite Recognized Developer Rebellos’s firmware, and start playing with the device. Check out this video.
June 19, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
From HTML to LEDs or Android to Arduino, Hardware Hacking is a pastime of many people including XDA Elite Recognized Developer AdamOutler. Another hardware enthusiast is Pearl Chen. When working on something, she takes on a cross-disciplinary approach. With over 9 years of professional experience in web technologies, Pearl has a body of work that includes Facebook campaigns for Google Chrome and microsites for Nike. Pearl also tackles more unusual jobs such as modifying the guts of Nintendo Wii controllers and dynamically creating origami objects from SMS messages.
Alongside contributing to open source educational resources hosted on Github, Pearl is a published author and contributed the NFC and Open Accessory API chapters to Professional Android Sensor Programming. Pearl enjoys building tools for other educators and her goal is to raise the bar for technology education by using collaborative platforms to help construct open source curriculums and by creating engaging and effective educational user experiences.
With this impressive resume, we invited Pearl to speak at XDA:DevCon 2013. In her session, Pearl will talk about near field communications or NFC. So quit waiting for Google Wallet to come to your local retailer, or for the next rumored iPhone with built-in mobile payment to ship, because NFC is already here. This technology can be used for much more than waving your phone at the cash register. Pearl with show you some unexpected ways that NFC can be utilized on Android phones (and other NFC-enabled devices) that go beyond the checkout line.
May 30, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
Here at XDA, we are a community of developers and power users. XDA’s history and purpose is based on a long standing sharing of knowledge, ideas, creations, and opinions. XDA is a place where you can learn to do just about anything for your mobile device, sometimes to the detriment of your warranty.
Recently, a new creation has come to our attention. This creation, called Casetop, promises to turn any smartphone into a laptop. XDA Developer TV Producer Jordan interviews Johnny Andrus, the creator of casetop. Jordan did a live broadcast of the interview and spent 30 minutes talking about the device and getting it into production. In this video, Jordan gives you the shortened highlights from this interview. So check out this video and be sure to stay tuned when we announce our next hangout so you can watch it live!
May 28, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
It has long been the dream of many technology enthusiasts and road warriors to have to carry only one piece of electronic equipment and still be able to stay in touch. The smaller the electronic equipment, the better. As it stands now, many people carry a phone and a laptop.
There have been many attempts to remedy this situation, such as the Motorola Atrix and its laptop dock. However, this only worked with Atrix handsets. Many tablets have tried as well. The ASUS Transformer line allows users to attach a keyboard, but that doesn’t function as a mobile phone so you are still carrying two devices. And not everyone’s a fan of the Padfone. Well, XDA Senior Member andjohn has begun a KickStarter project called Casetop. The Casetop device promises to turn any phone into a laptop.
We wanted to know how it works, so XDA Developer TV Producer Jordan set up a live interview with the developer of this project. Jordan will ask all about the device, and some questions about what it takes to build something like this.
So check below for a link to the live broadcast when it begins at 8pm Eastern(GMT-4) or check out and subscribe to the XDA Roundtable YouTube Channel.