Google project Ara - The next generation Smartphone technology

The Smartphone is one of the most empowering and intimate objects in our lives. Yet most of us have little say in how the device is made, what it does, and how it looks. And 5 billion of us don't have one. What if you could make thoughtful choices about exactly what your phone does, and use it as a creative canvas to tell your own story?


Project Ara is the codename for an initiative by Google that aims to develop an open hardware citation needed platform for creating highly modular Smartphone. The platform will include a structural frame (endoskeleton that holds Smartphone modules of the owner's choice), such as a display, camera or an extra battery. It would allow users to swap out malfunctioning modules or upgrade individual modules as innovations emerge, providing longer lifetime cycles for the handset, and potentially reducing electronic waste. Project Ara Smartphone will begin pilot testing in Puerto Rico later 2015 with a target bill of materials cost of $50 for a basic grey phone.

The project was originally headed by the Advanced Technologies and Projects team within Motorola Mobility while it was a subsidiary of Google. Although Google had sold Motorola to Lenovo, it is retaining the project team who will work under the direction of the Android division.

Google says the phone is designed to be used by "six billion people", including the one billion Smartphone users and the five billion feature phone users. Google intends to sell a starter kit where the bill of materials is US $50 and includes a frame, display, battery, low-end CPU and WiFi. Google wants Project Ara to lower the entry barrier for phone hardware manufacturers so there could be "hundreds of thousands of developers" instead of the current handful of big manufacturers.  This would be similar to how the Google Play Store is structured. Lowering the barrier for entry allows many more people to develop modules. Anyone will be able to build a module without requiring a license or paying a fee.

Ara Smartphones are built using modules inserted into metal endoskeleton frames known as "endos". The frame will be the only component in an Ara Smartphone made by Google. It acts as the switch to the on-device network linking all the modules together. Two frame sizes will be available at first: "mini", a frame about the size of a Nokia 3310 and "medium", about the size of a LG Nexus 5. In the future, a "large" frame about the size of a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will be available. Frames have slots on the front for the display and other modules. On the back are additional slots for modules. Each frame is expected to cost around US$15. The data from the modules can be transferred at up to 10gigabits/sec per connection. The 2×2 modules have two connections and will allow up to 20gigabits/sec. This is to defer its obsolescence as long as possible.
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