Google has a new smartphone in the works. Codenamed Project Ara, the phone will cost $50 when released. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Project Ara Offers Modular, Customizable Smartphones
Google's Plan to Make Modular Smartphones Moves Forward http://t.co/HIJK7Birar
— Mashable Tech (@mashabletech) February 27, 2014
The concept behind Project Ara is pretty simple: give consumers the ability to swap out parts of their phone. This allows for a greater level of personal customization, and may also reduce e-waste. The phone’s modular design has been in the works since 2013, back when Motorola Mobility was still owned by Google (the company recently sold their Motorola Mobility wing to Lenovo, but kept a few key projects like Ara.)
2. The Ara Smartphone Will Be Available in 2015
Google's Project Ara phone may be here early next year, starting at a shockingly low price. http://t.co/1quQqedMGY pic.twitter.com/NXv6H3cIGj
— Greenbot (@agreenbot) February 27, 2014
TIME notes that while Project Ara’s customizable smartphones won’t be on the market for about a year, there is already a developer’s conference planned. The conference is set to take place at Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum on April 15-16.
3. Modular Smartphones Aren’t Limited to Just Cosmetics
What makes a phone like Ara so potentially groundbreaking isn’t just the ability to create a custom look to the phone, but also a custom set of features. You could conceivably cherry pick your favorite phone features to create a phone that’s perfectly calibrated to you needs, without any excess.
“For instance, when Samsung announced the Galaxy S5 this week, its headline improvements included a better camera, a fingerprint scanner and a heart-rate monitor. In a world of modular phones, you might be able to pick any or all of those features and add them to the phone you already have. You’d even be able to pick among multiple cameras, or choose quirky features not meant for the masses. (Eremenko’s playful example: an on-phone incense burner.)
Ara also speaks to an overarching issue near to Google’s heart: the need to help get another five billion people on the Internet, by bringing it to individuals in developing nations in affordable forms tailored to their needs. The first expression of the modular concept Ara’s creators are focusing on is a smartphone with a target price of $50 that’s so basic it comes with only Wi-Fi, not a cellular connection. Unlike the bargain-basement “feature phones” such a handset would replace, this wouldn’t be a technological anachronism. As its owner’s needs evolved and budget permitted, new modules would make it better and better and better.”
4. Project Ara Phones Will Likely Come in 3 Sizes
We typically avoid large companies, but we couldn't resist Project Ara. Excited to be working with Google on this. http://t.co/mQAFeIeT4Y
— Jeffrey Schox (@jschox) February 27, 2014
BGR is reporting that the Project Ara “endoskeletons” are likely to come in three different sizes:
“The central piece of the device will consist of the endoskeleton that’s going to be Google-branded and come in three sizes, for mini handsets, “mainstream” devices and even phablets. The bigger the endoskeleton, the more modules it’ll be able to house, with the medium version having space for 10 modules.
Google plans to offer buyers complete freedom when customizing their devices, departing from the design of current smartphones.”
5. There Could Be FCC Hurdles For Project Ara
The video above talks a little bit about the people behind Project Ara. But all their hard work might come to nothing if the phone can’t get past government regulators.
Engadget notes that, due to the modular nature of the device, it may be an uphill battle to get Project Ara approved by the FCC.
Engadget is cautiously optimistic, however:
“…between the FCC and public opinion, it still has more than a few hurdles to leap before its modular cellphone is ready for market. That said…[Google’s] focus is to make Ara great, not profitable — a statement that adds to the nebulous handset’s allure. “