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Google’s Project Ara. What You Need to Know.

Posted on Jun 03, 2016.

What is Project Ara? How will it affect me? When? All these questions answered.

Back in 2013 a concept video for modular phones first brought the idea to the masses. Phonebloks was its name, since then the designer, Dave Hakkens, teamed up with Motorola to develop the concept, which was later taken over by Google.

Then after all of that, we ended up with Project Ara. Google has been updating us on the progress the Ara has been making since then. The point at which you’ll be able to head out and buy one is getting ever closer.


Firstly, what advantages does a modular phone have compared to a regular old smartphone? For a kick-off you don’t buy features you don’t need, saving you money. Then there is the option to customize certain aspects of the phone, want a better camera? No problem. Would you like more battery life? Easy, buy a bigger battery. This is a concept any PC enthusiast will be very familiar with.

One of the biggest boons overall would be the saving of money in the bigger picture of the phone’s lifespan. Usually, any major phone company will release a new flagship every 2 years or so. Each time you get a new phone you replace the entire handset. How about just upgrading the RAM? Or just slotting in a new CPU? Now you won’t have to scrap the entire device at one time.

There are other similar devices in the making here. Fairphone 2 is similar in its concept to Ara, although it’s not as modular as Google’s efforts, allowing you to replace seven of the internal components.


Where did Project Ara come from?


While Dave Hakkens was working on Phonebloks in 2013, Motorola was secretly working on their own modular device. Eventually, Dave and Motorola teamed up to create Project Ara which was taken over by Google.

Since Google has been at the helm of Ara, it has been taken from the concept stage to the prototype stage. Although this transition has not been without its difficulties, which is understandable given the nature of the project. There were plans for a trial launch in Puerto Rico back in 2015, which was not to be. Since then there hasn’t been a great amount of updates or new information until Google’s I/O conference earlier this year.

Google has seemingly been hard at work making the modular phone a reality. However, the ambitions seem to have been drawn back gradually. Google say that a developer edition will ship before the year’s end for the earliest of early adopters.


Google I/O update

Fans of Ara were happy to see the prototype demoed on stage this year. An “Okay Google” command was spoken and this prompted the device to eject one of its modules. A new demo video was also released. The video shows Ara users swapping camera, button and speaker modules with each other.

The biggest update of all was, without a doubt, Google’s announcement the Project Ara is currently on course for its 2017 commercial launch. Developer units will be shipping in the Autumn of 2016. This will be the first time Google developed an in-house phone.


What’s next?

Project Ara should be ramping up again soon with the developer editions being released shortly. The project will only be successful if enough people take to the idea. Of course, there can be no guarantee that there won’t be any setback or issues in the run-up to 2017.

If Google can deliver this project in the next 18 months, then this will be a very personal and unique phone offering. A lot will depend on the price, though we’re looking forward to the next development in the world of modular phones. 

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