11 April 2014

Google releases Project Ara development kit, modular phones closer than ever

project ara

There is no shortage of genuinely good smartphone options on the market. However, if you want to stay completely up-to-date, you’ll have to toss your old phone once a year in order to buy the new model. Unlike building a PC, you can’t switch out the parts to keep your rig fresh. Google aims to remedy that issue with its modular smartphone experiment, Project Ara, and now that project is closer than ever.

Tidbits of Project Ara and modular smartphones have been floating around for a while now. Google announced the modular smartphone venture back in October of 2013, and Phonebloks the little modules that would attach to a modular phone were shown off a month prior. Just last month we saw that that Project Ara might actually release as soon as next year, beginning with the small entry fee of just $50. Now, just a month after the potential price reveal, Google has released Project Ara’s module development kit.

The modules are, of course, what makes or breaks a modular phone without them, the phone would just be a lightweight shell riddled with empty compartments. Each module is a component integral to a smartphone the camera hardware, the SoC, one or multiple batteries, and so on and consumers can pick which component they’d like to install. Basically, instead of the limited configurations of the iPhone 5S and Galaxy S5, you can purchase whatever kind of phone you want. Better yet, you wouldn’t have to upgrade your entire phone the following year when new models hit the market, because you can simply buy a couple new modules and slap them in.

google project ara

The dev kit is a very early release, only making it to version 0.10. Though extremely early, it not only gives developers an idea of what they should start expecting in the future, but helps Google receive feedback from the very developers that will make or break Project Ara. The final development kit is projected to release at the end of this year.

The frame of the phone, which Google calls Endo, will come in three coffee-style sizes mini, medium, and large. The larger the phone, the more modules it can fit. Google doesn’t appear to have a problem with modules not uniformly fitting the phone frame; the camera can be a raised bump coming off the flat plane of the back of the Endo, or a pulse reader can stick out of the top like a Square credit card reader. Sure, it’ll be ugly, but you could swap out modules on the go to get that uniform body back when it’s time for the phone to go back into your pocket.

For now, there aren’t too many more details available, but Google is hosting a Project Ara developer’s conference next week, so hopefully the company will drop some more exciting tidbits about build-your-own phones soon.

Extremetech article


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