Google’s Project Ara: Build you modular smartphone starting from a $50 exoskeleton

27 February 2014, 7:45 am EST By Alexandra Burlacu Mobile & Apps

Google reportedly plans to sell a simple version of its Ara modular smartphone, which would cost as little as $50.

Project Ara has been in the news for quite some time, as it is an innovative concept that would render a unique smartphone experience.

Google is reportedly increasing its focus on the Ara platform and has revealed that it plans to sell a simple version of the modular smartphone for roughly $50.

The company has also revealed more details about the concept in a recent interview with Time. First of all, project Ara stems from R&D by Phoneblocks in collaboration with Motorola. Google may have sold Motorola to Lenovo, but it held on to the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group, so the Ara concept remains at Google.

According to the Time report, Google's current plan is quite ambitious, aiming to create a "grayphone," i.e. a barebones, customizable exoskeleton that would basically have just a screen, a frame, a Wi-Fi radio, and very little else. This overly-simplified model should cost just about $50 and will be "designed to be sold at convenience stores." The modular concept on which the Ara project is based would then allow users to customize this exoskeleton device however they wanted.

The whole upgrade process sounds very intriguing. Users will be able to tweak soft design elements via an on-board app, and would be able to upgrade the device's physical components from special kiosks, Google's Paul Eremenko further told Time. Such kiosks would be specifically designed to fit into shipping containers and go across the world, containing parts and tools for Ara users to tweak their device's hardware.

"Among the ATAP initiatives that have been announced, one in particular is quintessentially Google-y. It's Project Ara, which aims to reinvent the smartphone by breaking it down into modules that can be assembled and customized in a limitless number of configurations," explains the Time report.

Google first acknowledged the project's existence back in late October last year, when it offered some teaser images but very little concrete details. The company has now decided to offer more details as it's gearing up for an Ara developer conference it will be holding at Silicon Valley's Computer History Museum on April 15-16, Time further reveals. There's no concrete timeframe set yet for when the product would actually hit the market, but it may see the light of day in about a year from now.

Eremenko reportedly highlighted that Google's vision for this project was to make it "great, not profitable," which would explain the $50 price point targeted for the simple version of the device. Project Ara still has a long way to go, but we'll keep you up to date as soon as we learn more about this ambitious effort.

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