Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) has announced that the modular phone from Project Ara will be available for developers in the fall while a consumer model will be arriving sometime during 2017, the company stated at Google’s I/O developer conference on Friday.
The project has been taken out of the Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP), an in-house technology incubator, and introduced into its own proper unit within the tech giant. The modular phone’s development will even have a new hardware chief, Rick Osterloh, former Motorola president, as the reported by the Verge.
During the conference, Google showed a working prototype version of Ara, which let users live-swap hardware models such as cameras and other external components that could offer a more personalized experience, more adaptable to any particular need.
The phone in the presentation had six modular slots, each one linked to a new open standard called Unipro that can push 11.9 gigabits of data in both directions, so any module of the user’s choice could go in any of the six places without any specific order.
For the module’s removal, the user could go through specific options within the “settings” category that will allow ejecting the particular piece, whether is the camera or the screen. However this could also be done by just saying “Okay, Google, eject the camera” and the camera’s module will be ejected.
“Thin, light, beautiful,” said ATAP Head of Creative Blaise Bertrand at Google I/O while describing the innovative phone.
Creating an ecosystem
A long time has passed since the last revolutionary idea in the smartphone territory, and Google appears to have been working in an innovative design that could open up many doors to smaller developers looking to further success.
According to David Pierce from Wired, who had a personal meeting with Rafa Camargo, Ara’s technical project lead, Google is aiming to open up smartphone innovation by creating an ecosystem that anyone could contribute to.
The mobile market is full of high-tech companies that do not let anyone just get in that easily due to the hard competition. If a new developer would want to make a mark, this will need either the resources and experience of an Apple or a Samsung, or provide technology convincing enough to raise interest among this giant companies.
The Ara device will offer individual opportunities to this developers with a based-smartphone already developed. Now these innovative workers would only focus on upgrading or offering better products for a particular function.
For example, users could have the latest high-tech camera with about five other additional functions, a mini screen, a secondary camera or an improved speaker. Each function could be developed by a different company specialized in this particular subject, which will not require a large amount of investment that a smartphone from scratch does.
Last year fail
Although all this functions and possibilities sounded great, Google has gone through many ups and downs with Project Ara. During the last year’s Google I/O, Camargo managed to snap a grainy photo of the audience with a similar Ara prototype, with the same module-shape, according to Wired.
After the photo, the device went dark. Since then, the viability of the project was questioned due to the failed attempt and silence from Google’s side. However, some changes took place within the company after the event.
Paul Eremenko and Regina Dugan, high representatives from ATAP, left Google and the company went through some reorganizations in the Project Ara which was consolidated under Osterloh. In addition, the team scrapped testing and rollout plans that involved selling Ara modules out of a converted food truck in Puerto Rico with an unknown purpose.
The simplest look
Further research after the failed attempt ended up in Google deciding that instead of turning every single piece of the phone into modules, from the processor to the RAM, they would consolidate all that into the standard frame.
People would not be changing processor or hardware functions, they would only be worrying about more basic functions and their performance. The result was the latest device that changed also some physical characteristics.
In the previous version, modules used to be separated from each other by a thick metal grid that was a technical necessity that did not look so pleasant to the eye. The latest functional Ara was sleeker and with no boundaries between each of the modules.
Whether there are a functioning and promising device or not, this would not matter if any developer wants to actually develop something for the smartphone. Without the interest, people will just have a peculiar device with many lego-like spaces.
According to Ara chief Richard Woolridge, the Ara research was presented at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona in February and appeared to be some potential partners such as carriers, tech companies, and even fashion brands.
Some of the ideas were things like better speakers, flashlights, panic buttons, fitness trackers, projectors, app shortcut buttons, kickstands and a million other things, he added. The interests went from the most technological advances possible to the most simple ones like a compact case for storing makeup.