Project Ara presentation offers up new details on the modular smartphone

by: Robert TriggsMarch 3, 2014

motorola project ara modular smartphone (1)

The tech savvy of you out there are probably pretty interested in Project Ara, I know I am. Fortunately the developers are very forthcoming with details about how the project works and what their future plans are, and now we can take a closer look than ever at some of Project Ara’s finer details.

A couple of weeks ago, Jason Calacanis was hosting his LAUNCH conference, where a pretty substantial Project Ara demonstration took place, shortly after Google gave an announcement about its development conference for the project this coming April. The video included below is pretty lengthy, but only the first half an hour will be of interest to those looking for some insight into Project Ara.

One of Ara’s greatest strengths is that any company could come along and develop a module for the device with their own speakers, camera, or even different antennas for people who spend a lot of time moving between countries. Each module is shown to be held into place with magnets and each part can be placed anywhere on the chassis, offering up a huge range of options for important components, such as the battery. There’s even a battery in the chassis to keep things ticking over whilst components are replaced.

Impressively, the device is expected to cost just $50 for the default “grey phone”, which comes with the all-important battery, WiFi, and a budget SoC, to get you up and running. The talk also discusses three different device sizes, ranging from a medium sized phone, the larger phone shown in the video, and a phablet sized option for those of you looking for a bigger display.

If you’re interested in Project Ara’s origins, video below offers up a brief history of project’s development, interviews some of its key personnel, and delves into what the development team has planned for the future.

Are you excited about what Project Ara is bringing to the mobile space?

  • MasterMuffin

    Is the screen a module or built-in? Because if not, we need other OEMs to make these bases with different screen resolution and technology options for everyone’s taste. Also if there are only 3 sizes from Motorola, we need other OEMs to make more sizes, so hopefully other OEMs will be able to make those bases too.

    “Cleverly, the each module is show to be held” is it just me or is there something weird in this sentence?

    • Vardan Nazaretyan

      The screen is also modular.

    • Humberto Hernandez

      Did you see the video?

      Yes, the screens are a module too.

      • MasterMuffin

        3g on phone, couldn’t watch :)

  • imHOWIE

    I think it’s great!! Quite possibly the best thing to happen to mobile technology to date after the smartphone. If this can be made real and cost a reasonable amount, I’d be on board 100%!

    • Ackbar

      Quite possibly the worst currently. By modular they mean “You can switch out this one piece for another similar piece in the same spot”. It’s nowhere near what was originally pushed by that advertising scheme a couple months ago.

      • Terry Cameron

        Well phoneblocks was a prototype idea, it obviously it didn’t work very well in real life. This is still nothing to get pissy about. It’s great! If you need more room just move up to the larger base.

        CNet had a video a few months back with the current design (

      • emanuele_zanetti

        that’s still good in my opinion, just the possibility to delta-upgrade your hardware is a nice feature. I also think that the original phoneblock concept couldn’t become reality because of its complexity, so project Ara is a good compromise

  • Terry Cameron

    Robert Triggs, I thought you said this wasn’t going to happen? :P

  • Luqmaan Mathee

    I wonder how custom ROMs can work on these devices?

    • emanuele_zanetti

      maybe there will be compatibility lists for Ara modules. I think that it will be interesting to see what kind of difference there will be between a standard phone and an Ara phone with the same hardware.

      • Luqmaan Mathee

        Maybe it’ll be like desktops where we can flash any OS.

        • Dallas Gooch

          I think in the original phonebloks video, they mentioned having whatever OS you wanted. So i’m sure it’ll be possible, if not officially i’m sure someone will figure out a way.

  • “Future-proffable” has been tried before with digital devices, But too many aspects of the platforms have changed too fast and lost compatibility with other system parts to ever attract more than a niche market, and of the more mainstream ones that offered some updatability over time, 90% of users never cracked the cases anyway.

    This, however, while I can’t see it as the basis of a huge market, has a better chance I think, since that’s its whole premise – and since we have a lot of tech around that’s durable and going to remain “functional enough” for longer than our devices used to.

    Gonna be interesting at least, and think some good things will come out of it, even if not what the near term’s intended to become.

  • Alex Cuaron

    Hope it wont look the same as it does in this picture. Its hideous right now. But I just love the guys at Google. Lightyears ahead in terms of innovation.