Project Ara – Everything You Wanted to Know – A Smart Phone from $50

by Chetan Bhawani 30

Project Ara Phone

We are in a world where customization is at its best and people always look to compromise on one feature to see another available. When there is some great capability in a device, there’s a compromise with the size and we see jumbo beasts in the palm which not only look ugly, they make the users sometimes feel that it isn’t a normal phone. But in midst of all this, a fact remains true for all – a device cannot be customized physically, as there is just the possibility to insert the cards, remove the battery and nothing else. Google is planning to change this, and the scenario in the smartphone market would take a huge leap to the generation ahead, when the users would be able to take every part of the smartphone out and replace it with a new one. That’s what the Project Ara is all about – modular smartphone technology.

For those wondering about “Why such a concept when the manufacturers do their best in making a good smartphone?“, here’s a simple answer in explanation – You got a smartphone with almost all the latest tech in it. A new camera module is announced with a better lens and sensor, and you badly wanted it. Why should you buy a new phone for it? A simple module change could bring the new camera to the same phone which you own. That’s Project Ara / Grayphone for you.

Timeline: Jan 21st, 2015

Project Ara gets into the next step, a Spiral 2 concept shown with modules being placed over the skeleton, and it looks all cool. But at the same time, how will you know that things are set up correctly? That’s where the Ara Manager Application would come to use.

The app is said to be running all the time, and opens like any other Android application. Here are a few functions of the Ara Manager app:

  • Module lock and unlock
  • Power enable and disable
  • Gauges for all available batteries on the device
  • Cloud retrieval of all module support packages
  • Module statistics
  • Vendor info and usage guide for modules
  • Highlighting issues and helping users
  • Suggesting optimal slots for modules

Project Ara

This was all said earlier:

Recently at Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley, Google hosted the Project Ara developer conference and it isn’t only the talks but Google has finally showcased some prototypes of this modular smartphone in the making. Here are some facts which can make it clear about the Project Ara for you.

There are infinite customization options – Each part is a module, and you can change the module any time and replace it with any component. To explain it in a simplest way, if you wanted to have an extra battery, the module of the secondary camera can be removed and the second battery can be put in.

Project Ara Modules

What’s Endo? “Endo” is the main framework in the device which holds all the modules together. Endo is what makes it possible to hold the different modules and run the smartphone.

The availability of this concept, the smartphone and everything related to it would be initially in the developing countries and then it would roll out to the developed nations. The reason for this, is that Google wants to target the users who have a very low budget for smartphones. The pricing of the Project Ara smartphone is going to be the main target here, but Google’s aim is something which would catch every eye – they are trying to get it to the users for $50 for the grayphone starter model. This is without any contract, to make it even more interesting.

Google is expected to come up with the first working phone in January 2015, and these would be just the Endo cores with some frill, but the user is expected to purchase and use the modules they need, based on the requirement and the budget they have. These modules are going to be available at both, the Google store and at the third-party stores.

What would run the Ara? It’s the same Google Android OS which has been in a commanding position in the current market, but Google is again going to make this a joint effort between them and the companies which would start making the different modules for the users to directly purchase and customize their smartphone, unlike the current devices having the fixed specifications and size / shape.

What if I drop the Ara phone? It would be just like a typical smartphone which won’t break apart if it slips down from your hand. According to Google, the Ara phone would have strong connections between the modules, and the rear side will have the modules attached with strong magnets, while on the front there will be latches to hold the core with the screen and the other modules which you are adding to it.

By the looks of it from what Google showed in the prototype, the Ara device looks pretty sleek and neat, but that is not the final product. And if you already got to understand what the modular phone is about, you should be knowing that the shape of the phone won’t remain the same, as you can make it thicker or thinner in different areas based on the module you are tyring to include. Having the Android OS in it would be an added advantage, as that is something well established and one wouldn’t be introduced to something totally new at least in the software area.

There’s no special naming done to this, although the team working on Project Ara is calling it the Grayphone. Although the price is $50 to start with, the connectivity at that point in the phone would be Wi-Fi, and it would be upto the user on how he wants to make it better, and what options he wants to include. The base would come with the modules such as – Wi-Fi module, LED light module, Battery module, Display module, Speaker module and such.

The most interesting part for the users would be that, it wouldn’t be under the control of the manufacturers as there are plans to make Kiosks available with the tools which would make it easier for users to select and place the right modules which they want to power their Ara phones.

The concept looks super interesting, or we could be very excited about it as its something totally new to the world of technology, and there are loads of possibilities in this arena. There’s some reason why Google didn’t sell this part of Motorola to Lenovo, and with this one coming from the makers of Android OS, we have high hopes about the Project Ara.

Chetan Bhawani

Chetan Bhawani is a dentist, a tech blogger and a passionate writer in the field of technology. He keeps himself connected to the web for the entire day, of course except when he's dozed off! Add +Chetan Bhawani on Google Plus for more!

  • Nikhil Narkhede

    Eagerly waiting for project ara phone 🙂

    • Me too im dying to know the innovative work behind this amazing device and want to go really in depth on its core functionality

  • Barbe Blanche

    Everybody waiting for this project

  • Shanky Yadav Jungly

    When it is taking shape..

  • sunny

    Eagerly awaiting this phone

    • Joshua Akinsola

      me too i want to see this come to fruition then i will know what this is truly abut 🙂

  • Suraj Racharla

    I dont think this phone will attract the average consumer

  • Jugal Mudoi

    Somewhere I also read about this project but I’m now super excited get to know about the google’s strategy of bringing it to developing countries and budget consumers first, that means we are very fortunate…

    • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

      but it will be expensive

    • Joshua Akinsola

      i hope they dont plan on using cheaper materials for budget countries because thats unethical and dangerous. Unlike making a whole massed produced smartphone they can make a series of them with different quality materials.

  • Joshua Akinsola

    This is the type of forward innovation needed. Its good to know that new things can always be found at Google. At the same time wont this be somewhat of a hit for money hungry companies that like to roll out device upgrades with only minimal innovations every year. Now I can just pick and choose new technology released instead of having to buy a new phone entirely. Would love to have this but…

  • msr

    the main problem with this concept is there will be many duplicate parts manfactured , phones may be explode, heating issues, etc..

    • Suraj Racharla

      Thats truee but google will find out a way of how they can stop that from happening. But your right it will still continue

    • Joshua Akinsola

      yeah thats always a problem for new ideas in the beginning things look awfully dangerous but with a good troubleshooting team they will test and test until one that is safe for use can finally be made. Then they will test and test future parts

  • Shanky Yadav Jungly

    What i am not getting it..

  • Nebu Cherian

    Is this what Lenovo did with their first layered phone? If so it seems like an exciting innovation where we can pump the battery life and so on…. But I have a doubt can we pump the hardware of phone like ram, camera….?

    • Joshua Akinsola

      Its sorta like it but more layered. lenovos seemed like an upgrade system with each part having a function and if you found a better layer your device will get stronger. This seems more like a personalization project in which you mak thoughtful choices on to define you

  • Suraj Racharla

    this is actually pretty good and i am actually pretty excited for this. It is liek builing your own phone!!!!!

    • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

      reminds me of lego!!

      • Joshua Akinsola

        its a really creative idea though and it will be a fun one and i think it should reduce the need of upgrading every year when all you have to do is upgrade a few core parts and there is also the personalization spec to it. I mean look at the red camo one! Its beautiful and its attention grabbing!!!

      • Suraj Racharla

        words can not explain!!

      • Joshua Akinsola

        legos were my favorite things back in the day so maybe thats why im really into this! XD

  • Suraj Racharla

    This is innovation and things that we have to look forward to. I really like this idea because you could be using the same base for the phone but add different features to it. So its like updating your device everytime something new comes out. I believe if this does come out the price for the base will be very expensive and i dont think this will be widely avaible. i had all the money and this came out i would definetely buy it but if this was expensive and i am the same as i am right now there is no way i could afford this. Would love to have this but it wont be here for a long time and even if it did i wont be able to afford it. My phone is probably not even worth a single part of it. and if i sell my phone noe i doubt if i would even get over 15 $ for it!!!

  • Ajanth Uthayakumaran

    google making a phone lego style LOL

    • Android

      more like advanced lego with technology intregated into it and high prices. Would be surprised if the parts were cheap

    • Joshua Akinsola

      yeah it does a little like a diy. But im fully into this idea. The only thing is if you dont use similar designed parts it can look very weird

  • Shashank Chourey

    This was bound to happen.. it’s the same like when you assemble a PC.. having processor, motherboard, PSU, GPU, RAM etc of your own choice.. that’s what I thought when I bought my first smartphone. way to go Google..

  • Karthik Gopinath G

    The way of the FUTURE

  • Its great to see how this will slowly make its way toward the people. The future is approaching fast and steady!

  • im_mukund

    This is where a revolution of technology begins. Customization at its best. When will we get to see this?