Even though Motorola and Google split up, Project Ara, which was developed while both companies were united, seems to keep moving forward. The Project Ara was initiated last year by the Advanced Technologies and ATAP group which was a part of Motorola owned by Google. After Motorola was sold this year to, the ATAP remained in Google’s hands and so did Ara. Now the project reached a next phase and the first working phone should be available in a few weeks to come. The second good news is that the Ara phone will be affordable which may shake up the cheap phones sector and change the market once for good.
Project Ara – fully customizable and affordable
The first Ara Developers’ Conference is scheduled for April 15-16 and will take place at Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. The conference will be streamed live on the web for everyone interested to watch. At the moment Google’s main focus is releasing an alpha version of the Ara Module Developers’ Kit which will allow an input from developers and companies of “all shapes and sizes”.
The Ara Module Developers’ Kit, or MDK, will be available as a free and open platform specification reference. It will contain tips, advices and guidelines on how to develop an Ara module. Google plans a commercial launch of its innovative and creative product for the first quarter of 2015.
The Project Ara, if realized the way it is planned, will open up a new chapter in the smartphone market. Some manufacturers already offer ways to customize their devices, however, tools to do so are rather limited. The idea behind Ara is not to actually allow customers to build a phone exactly they way they want. Ara will be delivered in the form of an exoskeleton and modules which users will be able to choose themselves. Each module will correspond to a different element of a phone such as camera, battery, RAM, etc.
The most basic version of Ara phone is called by Google a “greyphone” and may cost for as little as $50. This version will come with an app that will help users choose optimal combination of the modules. The “greyphone” will be available in convenience stores and users will be able to design their phones in mobile store kiosks.
The endoskeletons will be available in three sizes from mini to phablet-like. Bigger models will obviously have more room for modules. The medium version is expected to house 10 modules. Each element will be about 4 mm thick and the phone with modules attached to front and back could measure about 10 mm in thickness. Google says that modules on the front will be attached by latches, while those on the back will be held in place by electropermanent magnets.
Google may still need to jump a few hoops before releasing its modular phone, though. The biggest challenge at the moment is bringing the cost of the device down to $50 and keeping it a that level. Moreover, the company may face some problems with the FCC certification. The Project is innovative and there is no way of knowing how the FCC will certify such a product. According to Google’s Project Ara lead Paul Eremenko, the regulator appears to be positive about the modular phone, so at the moment the future of Ara Project looks promising.