Codename for a combined initiative between Google and Motorola which aims to develop an open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. The platform will include a structural frame or endoskeleton that holds smartphone modules of the owner’s choice. Modules include, electronic elements such as a display, camera, extra battery, speakers, etc. It would allow users to swap out malfunctioning modules or upgrade individual modules. In simple words, we can say that in near future you will have the liberty to create the smart phone of your own choice. Cheers!!
Project Ara smartphone will begin pilot testing in Puerto Rico later this year. The target bill of material cost is estimated to be around $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.
Structure and Features
Ara Smartphones are built using modules inserted into metal endoskeletal 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.
Modules will not only provide common smartphone features, such as camera and speakers, but will also provide more specialized features, such as medical devices, receipt printers, laser pointer, pico projector, night vision sensors, or game controller buttons. Each slot on the frame will accept any module of the correct size. The front slots are of various heights and take up the whole width of the frame The rear slots come in standard sizes of 1×1, 1×2 and 2×2. Modules can be hot swapped without “turning the phone off..!”. The frame also includes a small backup battery so the main battery can be hot-swapped. Modules are secured with electro-permanent magnets The enclosures of the modules were planned to be 3D printed, but due to the lack of development in the technology Google opted instead for a customizable molded case.
Modules will be available both at an official Google store and at third-party stores. Ara Smartphones will only accept official modules by default, but users can change a software setting to enable unofficial modules. This is similar to how Android handles app installations.