Google Bets Big with Project Ara

February 19, 2015

Blog | Technology | Google Bets Big with Project Ara
Google Bets Big with Project Ara

As you’re probably painfully aware, smartphones (as well as several other devices) are not built to last. Every year, new hardware components are released that are better, faster, smaller, thinner and in some cases, larger. Since the device is usually sealed, with no user-serviceable parts, when its 512MB RAM has outlived its usefulness, your only recourse is an upgrade.

But what if it wasn’t?

If Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP) is successful, the world of smartphones is in for a big shake-up. Named after its lead mechanical design engineer, Project Ara, is a modular smartphone initiative that aims to allow users to build a smartphone particular to their hearts’ desires.

A modular smart phone?

Ara looks like a basic smartphone frame (Google calls it an Endoskeleton, or sometimes, endo, for short) that’s been divided into rectangular compartments. These compartments, which have circuit boards and connectors on the back, hold the components, or modules, you want in your phone. Cameras, RAM, processors, storage, and NFC are available, and can be safely ejected while in use, much like a USB. Other modules are currently said to be in development. It’s the ultimate in customization – both in terms of technology and also esthetics.

We hope to look at the geekier technical side as more details are revealed, but for now, let’s consider some practical uses:

  • A photographer who leverages DropBox for most of his storage needs may select a more expensive camera component and some transient storage space, plus the enhanced camera flash.
  • An account manager who spends most of his day on the road might opt for a larger battery to ensure he makes it through the day on a single charge.
  • A game developer plugs in the largest graphics processing module so she can stay on top of 3D game trends.

Estimated to have a limited launch in Puerto Rico later this year, 2016 could be the year that Google brings modular smart phones to the mainstream.

Why is this good news?

Aside from owning a device that better suits your needs, and the flexibility that comes with options, the components will not only reduce the overall cost (a basic unit will run between $50-$100), it will also reduce how much technological garbage we produce.

What would your dream phone look like? Would you replace your current smartphone with Project Ara for the chance to tinker? Let us know @GeekHive.

 

Phil Azzi, Developer, GeekHive

Phil Azzi

Technical Lead
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