Google’s Project Ara modular smartphones could be available as soon as next year for as little as $50, if reports are to be believed. Google has only just announced a developers’ conference to be held in April to help push production of the phone further.
The project will see Google pushing modular smartphones made of blocks of features and elements that are completely swappable. You will be able to add further elements, making the phone capable of a lot more as and when you wish.
While the phone’s concept sounds fantastical, Time reports that Google’s ATAP team wants the phone to mainly be targeted at emerging markets. At the $50 price point, Ara’s creators wish to make a “grayphone” a barebones handset that can be sold at convenience stores. The phone will be so basic, that it will only come with a Wi-Fi connection and not a cellular one. Buyers will then be able to customise their experience, choosing to add not just additional modules but also modify their phone aesthetically.
What this will do is that it will not only allow users to build a smartphone with the features they want, buyers will also be able to bring down the cost of their phones by choosing to keep some features out of it. For example, if you’re fond of using your phone to click images but not so much surf the Internet, you could choose to put in a better camera, or a faster RAM to help you process images and compromise a bit on connectivity. This will also help Google capture a wider share in emerging markets.
Google says that even soft design elements will be tweakable, using an on board application. Android apps are being developed to make the configuration process simpler for each shopper by pinpointing a different set of features and designs each time.
“The question was basically, could we do for hardware what Android and other platforms have done for software?” Project Ara’s head Paul Eremenko, tells Time. “Which means lower the barrier to entry to such a degree that you could have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of developers as opposed to just five or six big [manufacturers] that could participate in the hardware space.”
Ara will not just cater to the smartphone market but also aims to take phablets and tablets into the fold. The team plans to support devices in three sizes – mini, medium and jumbo and the size of all of these will be determined by an endoskeleton, one part that will be Google branded.
Google announced the Project Ara back in October last year as a part of Motorola. The company then ended up shock selling Motorola to Lenovo earlier this year but held on to Project Ara, and for good reason. The company seems to be taking the modular smartphone project seriously and has announced that it will be holding three conferences this year to acclimatise developers to the ecosystem.