If I have to give prizes for the numerous Google projects I love, Google’s modular smartphone, known as Project Ara, would be the outright first. Since coming on stream the project had suffered a lot of setbacks that there was speculation Google was going to give up on it. This idea became entrenched after plans to launch the modular smartphone last year in Puerto Rico were cancelled.
Google I/O conference ended yesterday with cheering news about the modular phone. According to Google, they are expediting work on the release of the modular smartphone. The plan now is to launch the phone next year. And to achieve this, they are giving the Project Ara modular smartphone division its own unit. Making it independent of ATAP research lab. Taking the modular smartphone team out of ATAP is a bit surprising though. I thought the hiring of Rick Osterloh to head ATAP was part of the bigger picture of completing the project under his watch. On the other hand, maybe it was Osterloh’s advice to create a new division for Ara. Anyway, Osterloh is still in charge of the new modular smartphone division.
Why Modular Smartphone?
Basically, a modular smartphone is designed in such a way that the components that make up the phone can easily be detached and re-attached. The whole idea blends in with making very cheap smartphones. The advantage of a modular smartphone is this: you don’t have to replace the whole phone and buy a new one if say, the chipset is bad. All you need do is detach all the pieces on the chipset and get yourself a new one. Then re-attach the pieces unto the chipset. That means phone components like screen, memory modules, camera, speakers and ports can be removed and replaced with better ones. I seriously like the idea that I can upgrade a 2GB RAM to a 4GB RAM phone by simply swapping the memory module. You can also upgrade components like your phone camera too. Modular smartphones should be the future of smartphones in my opinion
First Modular Smartphone
When Project Ara was mooted, it was a novel idea with a lot of good intentions. But due to the delays in the development of the phone, the title of first modular smartphone goes to the LG G5. LG really took the wind out of Google’s sails when it launched the G5 at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. There is the feeling though that the G5 is not completely modular as what Google is planning for Ara. Lets hope it is true and Google’s gives us a complete modular smartphone.
Project Ara Hardware
Project Ara modular smartphone would be the first time Google is building a phone. What about Nexus? The Nexus series of smartphones are not actually built by Google. Instead Google contracts the hardware manufacturing to companies like Huawei, LG and HTC.
In the demo of Ara shown yesterday, Google was able to show some amazing things one could do with Ara. For instance, you can talk to the phone and order it to automatically eject an external component like the camera. From the hardware specs, there are six modules and they are all generic. Which means getting replacement modules shouldn’t be difficult and their slots are interchangeable. These slots/modules are all linked together by an open standard known as Unipro. Unipro is able to transfer 11.9 gigabits of data in both directions.
Developers to Get Ara First
Before the modular smartphone is released to consumers next year, developers would have a feel of it later this year. It makes quite a bit of sense. You don’t want to push out a product that is mystery to people in charge of making components for the phone. The developers will use the period to understand how to make compatible modules for the phone. The point being that, when the phone is launched next year, there would be several modules in the market waiting for consumers to buy. I hope the modules won’t be ridiculously priced though.
The ‘Ara: What’s next‘ video below is a demonstration of all things Ara. I guess the video approximates to what is called a teaser before the main event next year.
photo credits: money.cnn.com; google.com