Google’s Project Ara is an effort to create modular smartphones that let you pull out the processor, battery, camera, or just about any component and replace it with a new module.
At the second Ara Developers Conference today Google announced that it would launch a pilot program in Puerto Rico later this year. But the company also showed off the latest prototype, highlighted tools that will let third party developers create their own modules, and gave us a better of what Project Ara phones will look like when they ship.
Google also released a pretty slick video showing just how easy it will be to swap out parts.
I was already sold on the idea of a modular smartphone that lets you replace just the parts you want rather than throwing out your phone and buying a new one every few years.
But after seeing just how easy it will be to replace a broken screen, I’m really sold on the concept… assuming Project Ara hardware can be sold at reasonable prices.
Right now if you crack the screen on your phone you can try to fix it yourself (and run the risk of making things worse) or pay a rather high price to have it repaired. With Project Ara all you’ll need to do is slide your broken screen out of the frame and slide in a new one.
You could also upgrade to a higher-resolution screen the same way — but Project Ara isn’t just about upgrades and repairs. What if you wanted to use a low-power E Ink screen instead of a power-hungry full color display? Just pull out your color screen, slide it into your bag, and pop in an ePaper screen.
The demo video also shows modules including speakers and cameras, and Google has unveiled reference designs for additional modules including processor and 3G components.
While it will likely be a while before most people can actually get your hands on a Project Ara, and the success of the endeavor will depend on the ecosystem of third-party modules Google can encourage developers to create, the whole concept looks pretty promising.