Project Ara is Google’s grand experiment to design a modular smartphone. Want to upgrade the display on your phone? Instead of buying a new device, jut pop in a new display module. The same could theoretically go for the speakers, processor, battery, storage, camera, or any other components.

The platform could also open the door for phones with niche components like blood sugar level testers for diabetics or zoom lenses for cameras.

Google hopes to deliver the first commercial versions of its Project Ara devices in early 2015. But developers can apply to get an early version by applying now for a Project Ara Developer board kit.

Update: Google missed its July ship date, but the dev hardware should be available in late August or early September.

project ara colors

Google is hoping to attract folks interested in developing hardware and software that will work with the platform. The idea is to get the devices into the hands of developers before the general public so that by the time you can actually buy a Project Ara starter kit you’ll be able to actually do something with it.

The module developer kit version 0.10 includes a Texas Instruments OMAP 4460 application processor, an endoskeleton, a modified version of Linaro Android, and a switch board.

This fall an updated developer version 0.20 kit will be available, but the kit that Google plans to ship this month will help developers get started. You’ve got until July 17th to apply for developer hardware and Google will ship the first kits by the end of the month. A second round of applications closes August 17th.

via CNET, Eduardo Ruiz, and Mobile Geek

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15 replies on “Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone dev kits start shipping in July”

  1. I hope that Google Project Ara will not only be base for the modular smartphone
    but also a nextcoming Project for modular tablets!

    And Google Project Ara will of course be important step for the progress
    towards less electronic waste.
    Because the progress in components forthcoming years will be an avalanche
    especially when all kinds of components will be stacked
    and not only Nand Flash memories as today!
    3D chip technology will come within 3-4 years.

    I hope that Google Project Ara will get much more of crowdsourcing progress.
    With more of mems-sensors like Air-pressure-sensors will more crowsourcing
    services like PressureNet be developed!

  2. I’m rooting for this. I definitely want modular smartphones in the future. I’m more interested in it than Google’s other projects: Wear and Glass.

  3. Wow that’s fast. I didn’t expect working devices for developers to work with so soon. I really do like the idea of a modular phone. I hope Google figures out all the issues with such a concept.

  4. OMAP 4460? Wasn’t that in the Galaxy Nexus, like a million years ago?

    1. If it (the processor) is upgradable, it might make a lot of sense to ship with a low-end processor.

      1. There’s also a lot of open source documentation and support for this chip family, which is part of the reason pre-release Google Glass devices currently use OMAP 4430 chips. Google might switch to a more recent/powerful processor before shipping Ara and/or Glass.

          1. Well, they haven’t promised that they *will* use different chips. But personally I’d be surprised if Glass or Ara use OMAP chips when they hit the streets as consumer products.

          2. Sounds like it’s going to be up to the manufacturers who adopt the Ara technology.

          3. Especially when TI have declared that they shall leave the consumer market
            for it’s ARM-based SoC and invest instead in other markets as car market
            for infotainment.

    2. Project Ara’s goal is not to be the fastest, most up-to-date mobile phone. If anything, the platform is akin to something like the Raspberry Pi, only on a more commercial basis (I guess) to let hardware developers tinker with and create hardware modules they can plug into Ara’s hardware bus. Innovation in a different direction.

      It’s also possible that the nature of Ara’s infrastructure – the power requirements and the current 50% overhead in design space it requires per module (they hope to shrink that to 20%) – doesn’t lend itself well to the bigger, more powerful processors, at least not yet.

      I very much doubt they’re deliberately crippling the device so they can sell processor module upgrades later. Unless something amazing happens, they’re not going to be selling the volumes where that would be even a consideration.

      1. I guess I just assumed Ara phones would run a recent version of Android. Seems odd to give it a processor that has already been determined to not run Kitkat.

      2. I think it might be a strategy to encourage owners to upgrade their processors, not to generate revenue for Google (or anyone else) but rather to provide existence proofs that processor upgrades are doable. Saying that it’s theoretically possible to upgrade your processor is one thing; pointing to people who’ve actually done it and liked the results is another thing entirely.

        1. You might be right. They’re planning on selling the Ara kits for $50 with the basic processor. Another consideration is that they don’t companies paying any licensing fees when using Ara as a basis for phone development.

      3. I thought there were lower clocked single/dual core SoCs that are more power efficient yet more powerful than something this old. They just don’t make headlines. Or is that not the case with these new architectures?

Comments are closed.