Project Ara is happening and its happening fast, Google has taken charge of the modular smartphone project and is aiming for a January 2015 release- it won't cost much either, with the standard price coming in at $50. That said, new modules and customisation options will likely bulk up the smartphone's price a bit.
Google's plans were revealed yesterday at the first Ara's developers conference, project leader, Paul Eremenko explained that consumers would be able to buy the ‘Grey Phone' as early as next year and is called the grey phone in order to encourage people to customise it. The $50 phone will start off as a basic device, it will then be up to the user to buy new modules to swap in and out.
One cool feature that was revealed was that the battery inside the phone is hot-swappable, so your phone will stay on in-between switching out the battery and some other components such as the WiFi module or the speaker. Between now and next year, Eremenko and the other two full time members of the team have their work cut out for them, they are currently working with all sorts of partners and arranging for modules to be made, they even have a 3D printing company building them a printer to create the modules on a mass scale.
At the conference, Eremenko did comment on Android's lack of dynamic hardware support: “It's true that Android does not support dynamic hardware today,” he said. “The good news is that we're Google.” Right now users are used to swapping out their device every year or two for a shiny new one but that may become a thing of the past as Ara's endoskeleton will last five or six years and those looking for a new look or more power can simply swap out the modules to get their fix.
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KitGuru Says: When we first reported on Phonebloks and then later, Project Ara, many were sceptical about the idea of a modular smartphone but Google has cracked down on the idea faster than we thought. Next year we will have buildable and customisable phones with better control over things like price to performance ratio and features, but will it catch on? Would you guys like to build your own smartphone?