Project Ara is the codename for a new initiative by Google that aims to develop an open hardware platform for designing, developing and creating highly modular smartphones.
Google Project Ara Modular smartphone, has been under development for the last two years by Google technicians. It was first announced to the world back in October of last year.
The Google Project Ara Modular smartphone consists of an exoskeleton frame that is equipped with a screen and wireless connectivity. It’s then customized to the user’s needs and requirements by adding modular pieces to provide processing power, camera, storage and the smartphone features.
“The endo is an aluminum frame that contains a bit of networking circuitry so the modules can talk to each other, a tiny back-up battery and not much else. Everything from the screen to the processor to the battery is provided in the form of a module — the medium-sized endo has space for ten of them — which you slide into place to form a phone. In the first prototype, the modules use retractable pins to connect to the endo’s network; later this year, Google plans to replace that approach with more space-efficient capacitive connections.”
Like the expansion slots on a desktop PC’s motherboard, each compartment on the endo is designed to handle any module of the correct size, regardless of its function. Though basic technical issues are sometimes a factor — an antenna can’t just go anywhere on a phone’s body, for instance — the general idea is to design the phone so that you can swap modules in and out at will. If you never take photos with your phone but worry about running out of power, for instance, you might choose to do without a camera module, freeing up room for a second battery.”
It’s also been revealed that the modules that combine to create the functions of the smartphone such as the processor, camera, storage and phone can be removed, replaced and upgraded without the need to power down the smartphone.
The hot swappable modules will make it much easier and quicker for users to change components of the smartphone when required. For example to change the camera module from zoom to macro or increase onboard storage without shutting down the phone.
Paul Eremenko is the head of Project Ara and according to him Google will apparently launch their first Project Ara phone in January of 2015, the device will be called the Gray Phone, he explained the reasoning behind the name.
It’s called the Gray Phone because it’s meant to be drab gray to get people to customize it.
Google intends to sell a starter kit where the bill of materials is US$50 and includes a frame, display, battery, low-end CPU and WiFi.
Google will apparently launch a store similar to Google Play for their Project Ara devices. According to Paul,
By following the Android model, we are creating a free and open platform… The Ara MDK(Modular Development Kit) is free and open and available to everybody, so everybody could create a module per the specifications of the developer’s kit and put it in the Ara module marketplace, which is analogous to the Google Play store, and sell directly to consumers.
The first Project Ara device will be powered by Google’s latest Android Lollipop.
Google is looking to shake up the smartphone industry with Project Ara. The idea behind the project is that you will not need to buy a new device when you want the latest hardware inside your smartphone. Instead you swaps components on the modular device, and this allows people to get the latest components they want to suit their needs.
Google are expected to launch the Project Ara smartphone in January of 2015, and the company is also said to be launching a new hardware store which will be similar to Google Play, where you will be able to purchase modules for the device.
This will allow third part hardware makers to produce modules for the Ara Phone and then sell them in this new Project Ara store, which could end up making the device popular.