We are very excited about Motorola’s Project Ara, not least because it promises to be an extension of the already-existing and excellent Moto Maker tool. But Motorola is not the only company looking to go after the modular smartphone segment. The American company’s rival in this area, though, comes from the orient.

In China, Xiaomi has a huge fan following with each of its smartphones selling out soon after launch. Naturally there's a lot of excitement about upcoming Xiaomi phones with leaks coming in thick and fast. But nobody expected the founder and CEO Lei Jun to be the source of this latest leak. Jun shared an image of a mysterious modular Xiaomi smartphone on Weibo. The image was quickly taken down, but managed to create a stir nevertheless. For one it looks very similar to Motorola's Project Ara. But there are few differences between the two.

The image shared by Lei Jun (Image credit: Weibo)

The image shared by Lei Jun (Image credit: Weibo)

Based on just the image shared by Jun, it seems only the camera and battery modules of the phone can be swapped out. Unfortunately, the main board seems affixed to the display, which cannot be swapped out like Project Ara. The drawings show a multitude of coloured parts that make the phone look a bit ‘Legoish’. Even then there are plenty of design traits to make it look typically Xiaomi.

Of course on the face of it, two companies in the same field exploring similar ideas is not all that interesting. Until you throw ex-Vice President, Android Product Management, Hugo Barra into the mix. Xiaomi poached Barra from Google earlier this year and Motorola as we all know is a Google company. So there remains the tantalising mystery of whether Barra played any role in the development of Ara. Barra was reportedly hired to make Xiaomi a global brand and we can think of few more eye-catching ways to achieve that than the Magic Cube.

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