Project Ara gets a progress update video ahead of developers conference

by: Jonathan FeistApril 4, 2014

motorola project ara modular smartphone (1)

Just in case your excitement level for Project Ara was dwindling, the Phonebloks crew has put up a video teaser – a little behind the scenes action of Project Ara and the folks that are making it possible.

The video comes at us less than two weeks ahead of the first Project Ara developers conference on April 15-16, and within days of the expected release of the Ara Module Developer’s Kit. We’d say that is good timing, indeed. Shot and pieced together by Dave Hakkens of Phonebloks, the video is a bit of a tour of what the Project Ara team has going on, and it is looking pretty good.

Let me just say one thing before you start the video – electro-permanent magnets are cool!

Instead of turning to screws, plastic clips or a full back cover, the engineers have a Project Ara prototype running that uses electro-permanent magnets to secure the individual modules in place on the main phone board. These magnets are made of various materials that operate as an electro-magnet, however, are able to hold a magnetic state without the need for constant electricity, just set it and forget it and your pieces stay attached.

The module connection technique allows the device to aesthetically embrace the modular design without needing to hide it all behind a cover. Allowing for ultimate customization, users can order modules in different colors, textures and designs. An Ara Configurator app will let you play with various designs and modules, and presumably allow you to order pieces, or an entire phone.

Project Ara Sizes

Finally, the video reveals what appears to be three distinct sizes of Ara devices, Mini and Medium appear to be in progress now, with Large coming in a future release. No indication is given what the actual sizes are, but Mini will provide a 2×5 module grid, Medium gets you up to 3×6 modules and Large will come in with a grid of 4×7 modules.

For more great Project Ara information, please take a look at our in-depth analysis here. What do you think, is Project Ara on track to take over the phone market, or is it just another gimmick?

  • ghon

    Just be released already, I want to buy you

    • Jonathan Feist

      I agree ghon. Or at least let us see all the specs, screen size/resolution, available processors and such.

      • maharaja

        That has so much potential! Imagine LG, Samsung, HTC, Qualcomm, Mediatek etc, making parts that google would assure worked (in terms of drivers for instance)!

      • venorme

        That`s th reason of project ara – there will be no specs – you make your own. Sony makes best screen – just grab it and slide it in. You like processor from Sammy – go for it. Camera from Sony – here you go/ Even if you want physical keyboard – just take it.

        • Jonathan Feist

          You are right, of course, but I want to know that it won’t somehow be limited to a 4-inch 720p screen, or smaller, as a rough example. I am all for the customization and expandability, but if the BEST parts available are junk… That is my concern.

        • somedudes

          and do you think seriously all those different manufacturers will collaborate to provide modules for this for the general public to buy???not going to happen pie in the sky.

        • I read physical keyboard.


    • Colby Leong

      I know how you feel, because this will definitely change the game. But Google’s phones aren’t really standout phones when compared to the rest of the Android space, besides their unskinned and pure Android experience. But that what makes Project Ara cool is that other cellphone manufacturers can produce their own parts. I feel that, while some companies may focus on this, majority of their higher end specs will stay within their own flagships

  • Mhmd Ahmd

    Just be released already, I want to buy you

  • Android Developer

    what is the size of the blocks/phones?

    • Jonathan Feist

      Still don’t know Android Developer. Probably safe to bet on the medium size unit being a 4.5-inch to 5-inch screen, but that is a total guess.

      • Android Developer

        I see. wonder how they will handle cases, stylus, and front hardware (like speakers and sensors).
        Also wonder if magnets are strong enough to avoid parts being removed too easily, and yet weak enough to avoid reducing battery power or damaging the electronics in any way.

  • chaki-

    Let’s see what will come.
    If that is so awesome like we think, then other OEM’s would go fishing. And i doubt that HTC, Sammy, LG wouldn’t do something about.
    I am a huge fan of project Ara, but don’t want to raise my hopes high…..

  • Jonathan TAM

    I have been waiting for this for my whole life… Sooooooooooooooooo excited…..

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  • somedudes

    sorry but i cant ever see this being for sale , its one of these amazing techs that will be in development for ages then when it is finally ready some huge company like Samsung will step in and buy it up and it will never see the light of day.It will be then swallowed up for its patents and MAY if you are ultra lucky resurface sometime in the future under the Samsung brand no where near as good as the original concept.

    • Jonathan Feist

      I may have failed to make it clear, somedudes, that Project Ara is a Google project. Samsung may produce something similar, but this is already in the hands of a big player.

      • Chugs Rodiguez

        or maybe @somedudes is scarily prophetic and is declaring that Samsung will buy Google one day.

        and it kinda makes sense seeing how Google has all along has been telling the world its sale price.

        One $10^100, or one google dollars.

  • Sky Ang

    My next phone

  • Chugs Rodiguez

    i just want to be able to add like a microscope blok or temperature/barometer/hydrometer blok.

    imagine an app that ties together the real time temp data from millions of users. or a blok with a probe that allows you to measure the PH of a substance.

    a blok with a laser! a fricken laser.


    • Jonathan Feist

      A laser, he says. Genius!

      Aside from that, your idea of purpose built phones is also very clever. You describe what sounds like a weather machine, and a tool for maintenance of a swimming pool or hot tub.

      I imagine converting my phone into a dive companion with depth/pressure sensor or a flight companion with altimeter and such. What about CO/CO2/H2S etc sensors for people that work in mines or on gas wells. G-Force sensor to test acceptable speeds of amusement park rides.

      Breathalyzer that ties to your vehicle’s ignition. Multiple camera sensors to take depth perception and mock-HDR to the next level or just multiple speakers to turn your thousand dollar investment into a $15 little radio.

      Last one’s… Heart rate and blood sugar level testers for medical purposes. Extra buttons for media control, camera etc.

      One phone, a million uses – it does sound too good to be true.