Something has changed in Google’s Project Ara, the modular smartphone project

 In New devices

Google’s Project Ara

During the Google I/O conference last week, Google demonstrated the latest generation of Project Ara, a modular smartphone that is being prepared – and delayed – for years. Before, he was described as “the last phone you need to buy.” Now it is not quite like that.

Project Ara will not let you change the processor or the RAM or storage, or the screen – all this will be part of the basic structure of the smartphone. Now, the focus is on other components such as the camera, battery, and speakers.

The Spaniard Rafa Camargo, Chief Engineer of Project Ara, explains why the modular smartphone vision changed: basically, users usually do not care much – or do not want to worry – with the processor. They just want a phone with good specifications that do the basics and can be expanded.

“In our user studies, we found that most users do not care about the modularization of the essential functions. They hope that everything is there, everything always works, and it is consistent. Our initial prototype modularized all… just for us find what users do not care”, says Camargo



In 2014, replace the processor and RAM was one of the main objectives of the Project Ara.

In late 2014, Google works to modularize Nvidia Tegra K1 processor, Marvell PXA1928, and a Rockchip – the latter promised to be ready in early 2015.

Since then, the Project Ara command changed. He was played by Paul Eremenko, who left Google last year for Airbus innovation division. And Regina Dugan, then head of the laboratory of advanced Google ATAP research – where the Ara came – went to Facebook.

The project suffered several delays. The initial idea was to launch it in early 2015 costing from $ 50, which did not happen. It would then be tested in a pilot project in Puerto Rico, which was canceled due to the economic crisis in the region. Then it was postponed to 2016 because of smartphone parts were dropping easily.

Now, Google promises to send the first test units to developers during the fourth quarter. For final consumers, the launch is scheduled for 2017.

Ara Developer Edition is a high-end device with a 5.3-inch screen. At the rear, are the modules, such as the camera, the battery, and the speaker.

There are six connectors for modules, and each can transfer data at up to 11.9 gigabits per second in both directions. It is faster than USB 3, consuming only one-third of the energy. The Greybus connectors are proprietary but based on an open standard called UniPro.

Google has some ideas for modules like “flashlights, panic buttons, fitness monitors, projectors, buttons to open an app and kickstands” according to Wired. Camargo has been testing a prototype of a smartphone’s built-in car electronic key; and BACtrack, which specializes in breathalyzers, is also exploring a similar idea.

There are other more questionable ideas, such as a box to store medicine and even blocks that are just there to be beautiful. But Campbell says that Project Ara may in the future become as modular as a PC, they know how to replace processors and radios, “then things will evolve.”


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