Project Ara is basically the codename for an initiative by Google that aims to develop a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. It will include a structural frame that holds smartphone modules of the owner’s choice, such as a display, keyboard or an extra battery. This would allow users to swap out malfunctioning modules or upgrade individual modules as innovations emerge, providing longer lifetime cycles for the handset, and potentially reducing electronic waste. The first model of the modular phone is scheduled to be released in January 2015 and is expected to cost around $50. Continue reading for more.
5. Module Store
Similar to the Google Play store, users will be able to purchase modules quickly and easily. Venture Beat says, “To help you decide which modules to purchase, Google has three potential systems. One is to sell the Grey Phone and allow users to purchase modules via an app that demos module functionality. The second is to use a friend’s phone in guest mode to test out modules on that phone. The third option is physical pop-up kiosks.”
Google plans to introduce an entry-level Grey Phone into the market that will cost $50 to produce. Paul Eremenko, head of the Project Ara was quick to point out that the street price of the phone would be determined by commerce partners. Google is also planning a high-end phone that costs $500 to produce, and has a potential retail price of $800+.
While you may see teaser images here and there over the next few months, Google is still deep in the development phase. With that said, you can expect an entry-level base model to hit stores sometime in 2015.
Modules will connect directly to the phone’s shell, and are known as the Endo via electropermanent magnets. According to The Next Web, “when the magnets are hit with an ‘On’ electrical pulse they will create a solid bond between the Endo and module. When they are hit with an ‘Off’ pulse, the magnets will release the bond and you can replace the module. The magnets don’t need a constant charge to keep a bond. These modules will be created by various developers using the open source MDK that was released today. Cameras, antennas, batteries, processors, and anything that can be fit into a module shell will be available. The shells of those modules will be 3D printed to a user’s specified design.”
Simply put, the Ara’s modular system will enable developers to create accessories that plugs directly into a phone with having to design and build a third-party piece of hardware. This means we may see many module-specific applications in ways never seen before – games, finance applications, etc.