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Project Ara said to be powered by Toshiba processors

Toshiba will be providing three types of processor for the modular Project Ara smartphone, which will be used in the modules and within the phone itself.
May 21, 2014

Google has been forthcoming with details about Project Ara so far, but there’s still quite a lot that we don’t know about the upcoming modular smartphone.

According to Nikkei, Toshiba is preparing three types of processor for the device, which will be used in the modules and within the phone itself. Toshiba is pretty big chip manufacturer, and a quick look at the company website gives us an idea of the sort of chips that Toshiba might be providing for the project.

The starting point for a main processor in Toshiba’s product line would be the company’s TX series of microcontrollers, which are based on ARM’s low power Cortex M3 and M0 designs. Toshiba doesn’t have a chip that will offer up the type of performance that we have come to expect from Cortex-A powered Qualcomm or Samsung chips. With that in mind, perhaps Toshiba will be providing essential processing components on the basic device (to enable modules, etc), leaving consumers left to pick a main CPU from other developers.

Toshiba also offers up a range of audio, DSP, and other integrated circuits, smaller 8-bit microcontrollers, and even has its own CMOS image sensors. All of which could potentially be used in various modules and parts of Project Ara. Remember, there are many more processors found in smartphones than just the CPU.

Project ARA sizes
As well as a CPU, each module will need its own little processors too.

At this stage then, Toshiba could be providing components for any number of modules. According to Nikkei, Toshiba has been approved as the preferred supplier of processor components by Project Ara, and will become the “sole chipmaker” for the phone roughly a year after its initial release.

This last statement is a particularly interesting one, especially as, at first, it seems to contradict the open nature of Project Ara. It seems impossible that Google could enforce such a blanket rule for all the third party modules that are likely to appear, so what does this really mean?

If true, it’s more likely that this statement means that modules and components developed directly by Project Ara will be making exclusive use of various Toshiba microprocessors. This makes sense when you consider that the development team is likely to want to try and strike discounted bulk deals with a chip supplier.

This doesn’t mean, as initial reactions might lead you to believe, that Project Ara is going to be stuck with just three Toshiba CPU components to chose from. My best guess is that Toshiba will be exclusively providing the essential processing components for the basic skeleton.

The final piece of information from the source re-confirms the news that Project Ara is expected to go on sale for as little as $50. With the launch slowly edging ever closer, are you still interested in Project Ara, what would your dream phone consist of?