Google’s Project Ara is an effort to create a modular smartphone. Google will sell you a skeleton and you’ll be able to select the screen, processor, storage, battery, and just about everything else.

A group at the company’s ATAP special projects team has been developing Project Ara for over a year and hopes to bring the project to market in early 2015. But up until now the company has been showing off buggy prototypes.

Now it’s showing off working prototypes.

project ara android

Wired’s Mat Honan got a chance to see Project Ara in action when he visited the developers to talk about the ambitious project. Meanwhile, the folks at Phonebloks (who are at least partially responsible for inspiring Project Ara) caught a working prototype on video.

Skip ahead to about 2:25 to see the phone boot.

At this point Project Ara is still very much a work in progress — and Google is hoping that part of that progress comes from third-party developers who will create modules that you can use with the system. The company only really plans to sell the frames, which it calls endoskeletons.

Google plans to offer 3 endoskeletons in 3 different sizes: and there’s no reason you can’t buy more than one. So if you’re not a fan of phablets, you can buy a smaller frame… but you could also buy a small frame and a big one. Just attach key modules to the big skeleton when you want a big screen experience, or take them off and slip them onto the smaller frame when you want to slide a small smartphone into your pocket.

You’re not stuck with the components you choose: not only can you upgrade to better hardware later on… but you can even swap out most modules without even rebooting your phone.

Don’t need a camera, but want extra-long battery life? Just pop out the camera and slap in an extra battery.

You will need to open an app to look at an overview of attached modules and choose the one you want to disable before you can swap components. But it’s pretty crazy to think that you may eventually be able to connect hardware to your phone almost as easily as you can now plug in a USB printer, scanner, or disc drive to a notebook PC.

Google’s next Project Ara Module Developers Conference takes place in Mountain View, California on January 15th, 2015. It’ll b e followed by an event in Singapore on January 21st.

via /r/Android


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14 replies on “Google shows working prototype of Project Ara modular phone”

  1. So this could actually run windows or ubuntu if they develop modules for the phone? Where does the os lye in? A module? This could mean we could run full windows with an intel atom chip and have an hdmi module so it is full pc.

    1. I think eventually they are going to develop like a tablet case for this where you just put the phone inside a case with a 10 inch screen that hooks into the display module.

  2. Poor man’s modular phone:
    1. cheap flip phone
    2. cheap tablet
    3. cheap point & shoot camera
    4. duct tape

    Voila! 🙂

  3. I love this idea. I hope that they make it very flexible so that you have a lot of options. For example, I’d like a 2 MP camera option, and of course fairly obscure things like IR. Being a Google device I’m concerned it won’t have a microSD option.

    1. If it does not out of the box, someone is bound to produce a module that offers it.

      1. Thinking about it further, microSD might be less important because you could have more choices for the amount of storage. Increasing that after you were setup though would probably be more time consuming than swapping out other modules.

        1. I’m sure there will be other developers who will create module parts that will support micro-sd for Project Ara. Google is simply creating a physical platform of the endoskeleton for other manufactures(Sony,LG, Intel, Qualcomm, etc) to build upon.

          1. So you would be able to buy multiple exoskeleton/frames to put modules in? Is there away you can have 3 slots in the front? One for top speaker, one for bottom, middle for screen? What about cases for this? I know it’s modular but idk want to drop the phone and replace screen, of worst, damage the module with my data on it

  4. I can’t wait until this is released so that I can make fun of people using it in real life instead of just laughing at the developers naivete’ during development.

    1. I can’t wait to be laughed at by you when i can finally buy a portable computer i have the freedom to configure the way i like, just like my stationary desktop computer, and only have to pay for functionality i want and also only have to switch out single modules when the “next gen” camera or SoC comes out rather than discarding a 90% satisfactory device that is lacking in only 1 area.

      1. I love this idea I just hope the big cdma carriers get on board with it so that I am not stuck with only two choices for carriers. I literally use my camera 1% of the time so having an extra battery would be nice

        1. Since a lot of SoCs have integrated cellular and LTE Modems i’d venture a guess and say that the choice of SoC Module would be the determining factor wether or not CDMA is supported. Also, as a European i have literally no first hand experiance with CDMA Networks, i only know that the US has CDMA carriers and China has CDMA2000 carriers.

          Over here in Europe literally every single Network is GSM+LTE and each and every phone sold inside germany will work out of the box on each and every network.

    2. I will be there with you laughing… let’s see how the TSA reacts when they see a homebrew phone… that person deserves the cavity search.

    3. Um dude their are probably going to be like a dozen cases out there that would make this look like a “regular” phone while protecting it…

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