Project ARA

When Google’s ATAP first announced Project ARA, the idea was simple. Users start with a simple frame in which they added a number of modules, from CPU, GPU, Camera, Screen, and other more interesting modules, to create a phone which was forever upgradable. Now, that seems to have all changed.

Set to launch earlier this year, the Project ARA team revealed that things needed a little more time to become a reality, for a while we heard little from the team, until now.

Project ARA looks to now be on track for a 2017 release, with a brand new development kit heading out to developers at some point later this year. This new development kit however is completely different to the one received when the project was first announced.

Now, rather than having a fully upgradable device, Project ARA now offers a base handset with a number of components permanently installed with modules now taking the form of optional extras such as cameras, sensors, speakers, and much more.

For those hoping to have a fully modular device, it seems that’s no longer on the cards for Project ARA, instead a new frame will launch which comes with the CPU, RAM, and screen processor already pre-installed. According to Google it believes that users won’t necessarily be too fussed about this, as long as the phone works how its intended.

Fortunately, that actually opens a lot of doors in terms of accessibility as well as enabling more components to be swapped out without causing some sort of technical malfunction. Modules will also now be standardised meaning that if it fits, you can have it on your device, there’s no specific place for each module any more.

These modules come in a variety of shapes and sizes too from 1×2 rectangles to 2×2 squares. Google has unveiled a few of the modules:

  • An e-ink display for notifications or glanceable information.
  • Camera modules with different lenses and/or sensors
  • Speaker and microphone arrays
  • A kickstand
  • Programmable touch-sensitive module
  • Nonfunctional ‘style’ modules
  • Fingerprint reader

In terms of the basic specs, Google hasn’t revealed what would come with, but we do know that it’ll have a 5.3-inch display.

The way we interact with modules has now been finalised too with users now pushing a button to open up a menu to eject certain modules, or alternatively they can say “Okay Google, eject the camera module,” and they’ll then be able to remove it.

It seems Google has been working hard on making Project ARA fool proof and minimising any technical faults which could arise if a user were to pull out a module accidentally or while it was in use.

Check out the trailer below to see what’s next for Project ARA, and to get excited for the idea of a modular smartphone, if you weren’t already.

Developers can also find out more by heading to the Project ARA website.

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