Project Ara aims to develop an open hardware platform for creating modular smart phones. The platform consists of a structural frame or skeleton which holds smartphone modules depending on owner’s choice, such as a display, camera or battery. It would allow users to pick out malfunctioning modules or to include upgraded individual modules as innovations emerge, thus providing longer lifetime for the handset, and this reduces electronic wastes to an extent. The testing of project Ara smartphone is scheduled to start in the United states in 2016 with a target cost of $50 for a basic phone.
The project headed by the Advanced Technology and Projects team, a wing of Motorola Mobility. And the interesting fact is that it was a subsidiary of Google. We know that Google has divested Motorola to Lenovo, but it retained Advanced Technology and Projects group, which has working under the direction of the Android Development wing. The project is now separated from Advanced Technology and Projects team and have its own division in Google.
Google says they are designing this for “7 billion people”, 1 billion of this are the current smartphone users, and the other 5 billion feature phone users, and the remaining 1 billion future users not currently using phones. Google is planning to sell a starter pack of materials worth US$50 which includes a frame, display, battery, CPU and WiFi.
Google’s Project Ara aims at lowering the entry barrier for phone hardware manufacturers so that there will be thousands of developer’s instead of the current big manufacturers. This functions similar to the working structure of Google Play Store. Lowering the entry barrier allows many more people to develop custom modules. Anyone will be able to build a custom module without any license or paying a fee.
Structure and Features
Ara Smartphones consists of modules which can be inserted into a metal endoskeletal frame called “endos”. The frame will be the one and only component made by Google in an Ara Smartphone. It acts as the switch for linking all the modules together. The two frame sizes available at first are “mini” and “medium”. In the future, a “large” frame will be available. The slots on the front are for the display where as the other modules on the back are additional slots for custom modules. Each frame is expected to cost about US $15. The data from the modules can be transferred at speeds up to 10gigabits/sec, it depends on the number of connection’s. The 2×2 module’s have two connections and will allow a speed up to 20gigabits/sec.
Modules provide common smartphone features such as Cameras and speakers, but it also provide more specialized features such as printers, Laser pointers, night vision sensors, or game controller buttons. Each slot on the frame is designed such that they will accept any module of the proper size. The front slots take up the whole width of the frame. The rear slots come in standard sizes. Modules can be swapped without shutting down the phone. The frame also includes a small backup battery so that the main battery can be disconnected and replaced with another. Modules will be available from official Google store and at third-party stores. Ara Smartphones are designed to accept official modules by default, but users can change software setting for unofficial modules. This is similar to allow unknown sources in Android app.