You might not remember Project Ara by name. As far as names go, it doesn’t stand out. What you most likely will remember is Google’s crazy DIY phone that lets you easily snap different pieces of hardware in and out in the form of modules, not unlike a desktop computer. That’s Project Ara and we finally know a little more about it.

Don’t get your hopes up, because it’s not coming out any time soon, but Google and ATAP are hard at work. The phone is currently in the Spiral 2 phase of development, which includes 3G plans and working out how the module marketplace is going to function. After that will be Spiral 3, where they’ll hash out 4G LTE and support for up to 30 different modules (not 30 modules all at once, of course).

To be honest, the way Google talks about the Ara phone and the way modules are going to work makes it sound like a hardware version of software patching, where they’ll be releasing better version of existing modules, such as batteries that last longer. Again, it’s similar to that of a desktop computer where you can constantly upgrade it piecemeal without having to fork over the cash for an entirely new phone.

The variation of the Ara modules is the most exciting, fascinating part. Cameras, batteries, graphics, storage, speakers, USB adapters, etc – these are all typical components of a smartphone and to be expected, but Google announced a pollution sensing module and I’m sure we can expect more eccentric, experimental modules, especially if third parties get in on it.


What’s really appealing is the idea of swapping out modules on the go, creating the perfect phone for any occasion. If I can make another odd comparison, it’s like having a loadout in a videogame – you can only have so many modules installed at once, so be sure to install the ones you need. The phone will even let you swap an empty battery for a full one, without the phone ever shutting off. This will involve an app that will eject the specific module, which sounds similar to ejecting a piece of hardware from your computer before physically pulling it out.

While the test models that outlets got to play with used modules that slid into place, the actual finished phone will use electro-magnets that are affixed to the metal endoskeleton frame. The modules themselves were light plastic and the covers of the modules will be injection-molded polycarbonate plastic. Looking at all the pictures, the phone has a definite Frankenstein vibe to it and it’s not going to feel as sleek as what we’re used to. That might all be worth it, though, if we craft our ideal phone.


It sounds like buyers will be able to design their phones at the point of purchase, including printing the back of modules, which look to have a lot of customization options based on the pictures. Google plans to do a market pilot in the second half of 2015.

Google’s just taking the concept of a desktop computer and applying it to smartphones, but it’s a brilliant idea and if it works it could be a total game changer. Even if the added costs of new modules each year matches what we’d pay for the next generation of our phone of choice, breaking that cost up will still be easier on our wallets – plus, you don’t have to buy modules you don’t care about.

via The Verge and Gizmodo

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