Project Ara: everything you need to know about the modular smartphone Google

If you have ever dreamed of taking a bunch of parts and assemble your own Android smartphone, then the Ara Project fulfills your wish. Straight out of the ATAP group (Advanced Technology and Projects) at Google, Ara offers users to create the appropriate device in linking the components of their choice. Here’s what we can tell you the concept.

What does a smartphone “Ara Project

Still at the prototype stage, a Ara is in the form of a rectangular frame (called endoskeleton) itself divided into small rectangular compartments in which are electronic circuits and connecting plugs. It is in these places that we just fix the modules that will make up the smartphone: a module for the processor, a module for the camera, memory, and so on. One can also choose the screen and add modules dedicated to specific use (video games, health, sport …). The frame comes in several sizes.

We discovered one of the prototypes, the Spiral 2 at the headquarters of Google without the Silicon Valley. At present, it consists of eight interchangeable modules. The stated goal: that users can manage the devices as they like anywhere on the frame. Thus, the camera can be installed in the compartment that it deems most appropriate.

Interest?

The Ara Project is the ultimate form of personalization. Ultimately, it should help choose each module, its location, and its color and design. This offers tremendous flexibility in terms of customizing the setup cost. The most elaborate items will cost the most expensive. For users with a defined budget, being able to develop its configuration and select priority or not function, can target the modules on which you want to invest and where you want to save. For example, we may want a high definition screen and have only do advanced photo features.

One of the most attractive opportunities Ara concept is being able to add specialized modules: a mini telephoto lens, a heart rate sensor … The modular design with interchangeable parts, allows for a collection of modules and adapt its smartphone to its current activity, its needs.

Another advantage to upgrade its equipment at their own pace, according to its finances and again needs. Whether you are eager for latest news or a conservative who likes to take his equipment, an Ara smartphone will be more economical over time if we can keep the frame and change only certain parts. It can also allow quick access to the latest technologies as they emerge without change of aircraft.

When?

In January, Google announced that it would launch a pilot program Ara Puerto Rico current 2015, without giving further details. Two local operators, Claro and Open Mobile, are partners. According to Paul Eremenko, Director of Project Ara, Puerto Rico was chosen due to the fact that 75% of Internet traffic through mobile phones. The country also offers a good proportion between the owners of smartphones and conventional mobile phones.

Other actors

For the moment, Toshiba and Yezz (a phone manufacturer based in Miami) have officially announced their intention to propose modules. Toshiba has developed two processors for Ara models and pictures modules.

Yezz was selected to manufacture the modules themselves. The company suggests that it will propose basic modules and other more sophisticated, without saying more for now. The Company took advantage of the Mobile World Congress 2015 to present a prototype.

Yezz will not be the only manufacturer involved in the project, but it will create the first 20 or 30 modules modules that Google hopes to offer as part of the pilot phase. Google is not only the instigator of the project, it was also he who will manage the online store that will sell Ara modules. This represents a potentially huge financial opportunity for the company if the concept meets success.

The cost

The price of an Ara phone will depend on many things, including its size and elements that we choose. The price will also depend on operators if they sell packs. Here is the information found on the project site FAQ Ara

 We have established engineering and manufacturing goals so that the parts list of an entry-Ara terminal is within a range of 50 to 100 dollars. It is important to clarify that this is just the cost of the components that bodes nothing of the final price. This could be more or less. Ultimately, we expect that developers set their own prices for the modules they sell on the Ara Module Marketplace, exactly as do application developers on the app store.

It is feared that the smartphone costing you more than a mobile pre-assembled with similar characteristics. But it will be an evolutionary device.

Potential drawbacks

The final products are rarely identical to the prototypes which precede and what we saw raises a number of questions, mainly about autonomy. The team of project Ara said she is working to extend the life of the battery of his Spiral prototype to a full day at the launch of the pilot program. The fact that the battery is a module can be a good or bad thing, with the ability to install multiple power modules and the risk that it is less powerful than a conventional battery. Designers think solve this problem by offering alternative supply with solar power modules or a mini fuel cell in addition to the battery without turning off the phone. This suggests that it necessarily have to buy these additional modules for greater autonomy.

We also wonder about any malfunctions between components when one withdraws. Normally, a software layer that manages the interfacing. If Ara mobile rotate with the original version of Android, it will not be a problem because current phones use parts from a variety of suppliers. But it could be otherwise if the Ara models used a variant of Android.

A spokesman Ara Project told eLaptopComputer that the Module Development Kit (MDK) is designed to communicate with Endoskeleton and any connected module. An application manager (Ara Application Manager) will soon be introduced to deal with exchanges between two modules with the same function, such as two camera modules.

also remains the question of compatibility. An inefficient processor will not do well with a high-end photo sensor and system-intensive. Assistance with configuration or at least recommendations could help users avoid missteps. Google has not defined plan in this area, but plans to steer customers to save their surprises.

Open design could also ask questions about the tightness and durability of the products. In case of technical problem, it would then be treated case by case with each module manufacturer. There are fewer safety nets with a damaged Ara phone, but the problems are potentially manageable faster if we replace the defective part itself. During the pilot test of Puerto Rico Google plans to rely on logistics partners who will handle warranty and service issues.

For who?

The Ara Project is a concept under development and is not ready to replace your standard smartphone. As fans of Android, Ara entice hackers who like to control their configuration and improve the equipment, but not those who seek a simple solution.

The progress of the project

Yezz showed some modules at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. We will stay on the lookout for any developments that will be the new rallying module manufacturers, or advanced previously reported partners and Google itself. We hope to finally see the new Spiral 3 prototype which is already working on the Ara team.