Project Ara could arrive next year for just $50

by: Andrew GrushFebruary 27, 2014

motorola project ara modular smartphone (1)

Yesterday we learned that Google will hold its first Project Ara developers conference on April 15-16 in Mountain View. The idea of a smartphone that can be continually upgraded as new parts arrive might sound like nothing more than a geek’s dream, but it’s about way more than that.

According to Google’s official Ara page, their goal with Ara is to ultimately make modern smartphone technology more accessible for the masses. In order to reach this lofty goal, Google’s Ara project head Paul Eremenko says that the device could go on sale sometime next year for as little as $50 — though keep in mind this price target could change.

Consumers could save up and slowly start add expanded functionality to Ara

Obviously a $50 start-price comes with a few caveats. First, the ‘phone’ would be extremely basic with only Wi-Fi and extremely minimal storage and processing options, just to get it into the hands of consumers that can’t afford a high price tag. The idea is that the buyer could then save up and slowly start adding expanded functionality to the device such as cellular connectivity, an improved camera, more storage and a faster CPU/GPU.

Aside from revealing Google’s plans to make the barrier of entry as low as possible, Eremenko also reveals that Ara will hopefully be no more than 10mm thick (with modules attached) and will come in at least three different sizes: mini, medium and jumbo.

For those wondering how exactly the modules will stay in place so they don’t fall off in your pocket or right while your using the device, Google plans to lock front modules through latches and back ones through electropermanent magnets. Unlocking a module requires you to use a special app within the phone, however.

There’s no denying that the idea of Project Ara still sounds a little impractical and out of reach, even if it is also really cool at the same time. Of course, with Google behind it, we suppose just about anything is possible. We are certainly intrigued by the project and will continue to keep an eye out on this one. What do you think, impressed by Ara? Or do you feel its nothing more than a pipedream that won’t work out as well as we hope?

  • MasterMuffin

    Even if Project Ara arrives next year, it will be a long time before it really gets rolling. There needs to be variety in parts from known companies and people should actually buy Aras to get the variety, because companies won’t make any parts unless they can make good profit!

    • Andrew Grush

      Yah, it certainly won’t be ‘truly useful’ out the gate, but it’s still a cool idea in my humble opinion. Whether it will actually be successful in the years to come? Only time will tell for sure.

      • MasterMuffin

        Hopefully it will be! :)

    • Nathan Powell

      that’s why they’re having multiple conferences, IIRC they will release a module dev kit during the April conference

      • frederigoxcz305

        My Uncle Harrison recently got Infiniti Q50
        Sedan from only workin part time on a home computer… go to this website

  • mohd sultan

    I wish this thing could launched this year

  • Jon

    I honestly see this as a great idea, can’t wait until the conference and Q&A

  • Stefan

    Wow, this phone would be more open than many laptops out there.

  • utkarsh gupta

    i would love to see a tab of this kind.

    • KingofPing

      It’s a topic they have, near as I can tell, utterly avoided talking about.

      No idea why…3 sizes for the phone endo, 3 for the tab endo and you’re set. The modules should still be interchangeable.

      *endo-what they’re calling the aluminum frame with the networking circuitry that the modules attach to.

      • Marikel

        They said that they wanted to focus on making a great phone before anything else. They can’t waste resources on a tablet

  • I see a mini Ara as my next phone – I can wait till it goes mainstream.

  • john

    Installation of the parts should be as easy as combining legos otherwise only geeks will be interested. Just look at gaming PCs, not everybody makes them cause if the hassle sometimes.

  • Timothy Anderson

    I don’t think it is impractical. This is the way computers have been designed for years. You have a bus that everything runs on and plugs into. I think it would be hard to keep this at a reasonable size and thickness. I also think that, over time, you would still need to replace the chassis/body, in the same way that computer CPU’s have evolved over the years with different sockets. A different socket means a different motherboard. Even when that happens, it would be nice to keep some of you components from your last device. Even though buses have changed over the years, some were still backward compatible with older buses and supported multiple… think of ESA, EISA, PCI PCIe, etc. I think the same thing would happen with this for the same reasons. Technology gets improved to be faster, smaller, and use less energy.

  • Guest

    What about the software?

  • ZoldyckmemberNumbersix

    Wish they would make a flip phone version for the mini and medium. Like the ones in Japan where you can attach a lower base to your smart phone.

    • thecokedragon

      As niche as this would be, that actually sounds pretty cool.
      QWERTY slideouts (think the DROID line) as well? :D

  • Tyler Hatch

    I think google should let you configure your blocks at purchase, so you don’t have to buy them all seperate just to have a good phone. I can’t wait to get my hands on this phone, if notfor the customization, for it’s looks, this is a Good looking phone.

  • IronLiver

    so this is why google sold motorola , it’s because they already got what they wanted like patents and stuff. This would really be revolutionary and soon CHina will copy this and release it before they can.

    • thecokedragon

      China can do all they’d like, but I can only imagine their version will come up with *extremely* limited components. You probably wouldn’t be able to put anything anywhere (one slot would *have* to be battery, and you’d have to have one of everything, no less, no more) + it’d probably have a pretty indecent display.

  • Tricky

    What a great innovation! These kinds of inventions could reshape the future in ways we ca never guess. I really hope this works out, the concept makes my geek side drool. The possibilities seem endless! Just imagining hot swaping parts out as my situation and needs change makes me quiver with joy. Only problem I see is, Android already has a problem with fragmentation and lack of optimization, this would make it worse.

  • Its an idea or concept I have been following closely for a while now. I believe in the long run it will find wider consumer acceptance.