While most popular consumer technology has been moving toward simple, seamless objects that are hard to tweak or repair, Google is working on an ambitious idea to create smartphones that consumers can easily change and upgrade by themselves.Known as Project Ara, these smartphones would begin as simple skeletons that owners would have to flesh out with everything from a processor and display to a cellular radio and camera. Each of these pieces would be sold as a small square or rectangular block, called a module, which can be slid into and out of a phone's skeleton depending on what its owner wants and needs — Google is even expecting to see some nontraditional cellphone parts pop up, such as an incense burner.Project Ara comes from Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP). The project actually began while ATAP was still a part of Motorola, but it and Ara transferred over to Google after its sale of Motorola to Lenovo was announced. Google's plan as of early 2014 is to have the first Ara smartphones go on sale in the first quarter of 2015, initially targeting extremely low prices with the hope that people will buy them and improve them over time as they have the need and interest for more features.
Sep 2, 2016
Google has "suspended" work on Project Ara, the initiative to build a phone with interchangeable modules for various components like cameras and batteries, according to Reuters and Recode. The company reportedly may license the technology to other partners, but will not release a phone itself. The decision is said to be part of an effort to unify Google's hardware development under former Motorola president Rick Osterloh.Read Article >
Although Project Ara has always seemed a dubious commercial prospect, the news is surprising if only because Google made a renewed effort to push the modular concept at its I/O conference earlier this year, promising a developer version for fall and a consumer release for 2017. It would have been Google's first self-built consumer phone, although it now appears that the Nexus program may morph into something where Google releases phones under its own Pixel branding.
Jan 22, 2015
Google's first crop of Project Ara modular smartphones won't be available until later this year, and only in Puerto Rico, but people are already trying to figure out ways to use it differently than existing phones. That includes Lapka, a company that makes a beautiful (albeit expensive) set of sensors for tracking humidity, radiation, and temperature in homes. Where that project was inspired by NASA and designer Yves Saint Laurent, the group has taken new inspiration from designer sneakers to come up with a set of conceptual sensors for Project Ara devices that promises to turn your phone into a portable health testing station. You might not be able to text or even fit your phone in your pocket, but you could find out if you're too drunk to drive.Read Article >
Project Ara is Google's idea to let you swap out nearly every component that's slotted to the back of your phone, the same way you'd swap out a battery. That's opened up the possibilities for everything from a battery-heavy phone for road warriors, to one that's got a huge lens for taking amazing pictures. The idea could also extend beyond phones to computers and other devices, which is where things get interesting.
Right now, there’s a war to make the thinnest smartphone in the world. Google is a part of that with Android and with its Nexus devices. But it’s also attacking the very idea of smartphones as we know them with Project Ara: a project to build a phone that doesn’t cram everything into the smallest package, but one that lets you pick out and swap every important component. It’s a lot like the way many desktop computers still work — but for your pocket.Read Article >
We just got our hands on a very, very early version of a Project Ara device. It’s come a long way since its introduction in 2013, and even more since Google showed it off at its developer conference last year. Now it looks less like something that came out of a 3D printer, and more like something you could actually use. Even so, it still has many months to go before you'll be able to go to a store and buy it.
Even though Google is a long ways off from selling Project Ara phones directly to consumers, the company took a bit of time to detail its go-to-market strategy, which contained some details on the Puerto Rico pilot program. Perhaps most interesting was the look we got at how users might manage the many potential phone configurations that Project Ara makes possible.Read Article >
The Ara Configurator, shown off running on a standard Android phone, is the way that users can build out and order phones, and it looked like a pretty nice bit of software at first glance. It's not entirely dissimilar to the concept of Moto Maker — it walks you through designing each aspect of the phone, from the stylized exterior "shells" to the all-important modules and "endo" frame of the device.
Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone project is arriving soon, at least if you’re in Puerto Rico. At its Project Ara Module Developers Conference today, Google said that it plans to launch a pilot in Puerto Rico in the second half of this year, selling phone chassis and modules through local carrier partners, as well as through a fleet of small trucks.Read Article >
Google today said there’s still lots of work to be done before you find it at stores in the US and elsewhere. The multi-phase project is currently in phase 2, or what Google calls “Spiral 2.” It’s gone from something that can connect only to Wi-Fi to one that supports 3G wireless, with Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group saying that it’s working on carrier deals to help get this on store shelves at some point. Still ahead are things like adding support for 4G LTE, as well as a way for developers to make and sell modules that will work with these devices. Google also still needs to figure out how much all this will cost, and whether consumers will grok the idea of buying a bunch of tiny parts that can dramatically change the way their phone operates.
Google is holding its second Project Ara developer's conference today in Mountain View and is in the process of giving a roadmap on how and when it might get its modular smartphones out into the market. Probably the most notable bit of news we've learned so far is that Google plans to have a market pilot ready to go in the second half of this year. Unfortunately, if you want to give it a shot, you'll need to live in Puerto Rico — the pilot will roll out in that territory in partnership with carriers OpenMobile and Claro.Read Article >
When Project Ara hits Puerto Rico, users should be able to customize their devices using the Ara Marketplace and Ara Configurator apps. Google's ATAP group will also roll out some "food-truck" style stores for consumers to actually check these devices out before they try them out. Google also says that it'll have some 20 to 30 Ara modules available by launch across 10 different categories.
Oct 30, 2014
The engineers behind Project Ara are trying to make the last smartphone you'll ever need. Their design for a modular device has users slotting components — a camera, extra storage space, a Wi-Fi connector — into their phones, as and when they need them. It's an ambitious scheme, but engineers working at NK Labs in Boston have already produced a working prototype, which they showed off to modular smartphone evangelist Dave Hakkens during a recent visit.Read Article >
The early model, called Spiral 1, is creamy white and boxy, and a far shot from the beautiful modular models shown earlier this year. But unlike those mock-ups, it actually works, and it looks to be more stable than the prototype shown at Google I/O in June, loading its Android OS past the boot screen. At the moment only half of the prototype's space is open to developers, but NK Labs says it has already improved on the Spiral 1: the Spiral 2 will use special Toshiba chips that will open up much of the phone's modular space for developer functions.
Oct 29, 2014
Google plans to update developers on the state of its Project Ara modular smartphones at a series of conferences held early next year, where it'll discuss "major changes and advances" to the tools it provides for making swappable components for the phone. "We have been hard at work maturing and improving the Ara platform," Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group, which is developing Ara, writes in a blog post this morning. The ATAP group also plans to demo the latest Ara prototype at the conferences. Ara phones are composed of many removable pieces that users can change to improve the phone and add new features, but they remain in development.Read Article >
The conferences will be held on January 14th in Mountain View with satellite sites in New York City, Buenos Aires, and London, and on January 21st in Singapore with satellite locations in Bangalore, Tokyo, Taipei, and Shanghai. The conferences are supposed to present identical content, but their broad reach suggests that Google really wants to get developers on board with Ara. Google hopes to have the first Ara devices on the market starting next year, and having components ready for Ara is a critical part in being prepared. In addition to detailing changes to Ara, Google plans to share its initial plans for releasing Ara phones.
The Advanced Technologies and Products group within Google is the kind of place where the smartest people on the planet might want to make their careers, but ATAP won't let them. Instead, it follows Regina Dugan's DARPA model of innovation: tiny teams pick ridiculously ambitious goals and then try to achieve them in two years — and achieve them at a real, meaningful scale.Read Article >
Three teams from ATAP presented their progress here at the Google I/O Developer conference. We saw Project Tango, which is making wild 3D-sensing, spatially-aware tablets. We also got an update on Project Ara, which is moving forward with modular smartphones. Finally, we saw a beautiful, touching video based on animations from Glen Keane, who has previously worked on many Disney films. Here, his work was translated into CGI for a short film called Duet, and it will later become an interactive story for the Moto X.
Speaking today at Google I/O, the technical lead for Project Ara, Paul Eremenko, showed off the progress his team has made since we saw the very early first prototypes this past April. He showed off a functional, form-factor prototype. Which is a nerdy way of saying that for the first time publicly, we saw a modular Ara phone power on. It took its sweet time, but after several rounds of supportive applause from the audience, it booted. And froze. But over the course of the session, the team kept at it to get it past the boot screen (though to no avail). So not the most successful demonstration, but enough to show progress.Read Article >
Eremenko also announced a challenge for developers. A $100,000 prize for a working module that lets a phone do something that a phone has never done before, along with a trip to Ara's next developer conference.
Apr 9, 2014
The crux of the guide is a large document that breaks down what Ara phones will look like and how modules can fit in. As previously detailed, the guide explains the three sizes of phone skeletons that Ara will allow for: mini, medium, and large. Larger phones accompany more modules, though it appears that the exact number of modules could change between individual models based on how what Google calls their "ribs" and "spine" — the bars that divide up its modules — are laid out. For now, only Google can make phone skeletons too, so third parties can't release their own.Read Article >
Google has created guidelines for common modules, like processors and cameras, and requires developers to adhere to them. Those guidelines include how far they can extend outward from the phone (the camera can be thicker, for instance), and should allow for more consistency between frequently used parts. Among the parts that Google mentions are modules for Wi-Fi, batteries, chargers, displays, speakers, and even a thermal imager. Developers can create more unique modules too, though they won't have as specifically tailored guidelines to adhere to.
Apr 4, 2014Read Article >
We see an early version of what Motorola called Project Ara's "endo" — its endoskeleton — into which modules are slotted into a silver frame and locked into place using magnets. Those magnets are electro-permanent, meaning phone components can be secured or unlocked with an app: a design decision that means Project Ara phones won't need a covering or outer case.
Feb 27, 2014
Google's Project Ara modular smartphones could arrive early next year for as low as $50, reports Time. The company's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group — which is developing the project to make smartphones composed of small, swappable pieces of hardware — reportedly plans to finish a functioning prototype within weeks and begin preparation on a version for consumer sales beginning in the first quarter of 2015.Read Article >
While multiple phone models may be available from the start, in a deep dive with the Project Ara team, Time reveals that ATAP is focused on offering an extremely basic and low-cost option. Its $50 device might even stretch the definition of smartphone in some people's books: it'll reportedly only include Wi-Fi and not a cellular connection. But for owners of an Ara smartphone, that's not a sentence to a bad phone. Over time ATAP believes owners of a $50 device will buy more add-ons and turn their phone into one that's much more capable. It's an appealing vision that ATAP suggests could help Google capture customers in emerging markets.
Feb 26, 2014
The first conference will be held online with a live webstream and an interactive Q&A. A limited number of people will be able to attend in person at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. According to the project's website, the conference will focus on the alpha release of the Ara Module Developers’ Kit, which will give developers all the information they need to make an "Ara module." In addition, Google will walk through the existing and planned features for the Ara platform and reveal prize challenges for module developers.Read Article >
It was unclear what would become of the open-source modular phone project after the Motorola sale. Google announced later that it would keep the Advanced Technology and Projects group, where Ara originated, and accelerate the project and others that group was working on. What this really means is that making phones that people can customize with individual parts is a priority for Google — much like Glass in its early stages, it was hard to tell if Project Ara would just be vaporware, but this developers' conference series seems to, at the very least, bring the existence of modular smartphones closer to a reality.
Jan 29, 2014
Google's blockbuster $2.9 billion sale of Motorola Mobility to Lenovo won't include the Advanced Technology and Projects group led by former DARPA director Regina Dugan. The news was confirmed today on a conference call with Lenovo, and sources familiar with the matter say the group will be integrated with Google's Android team, where Dugan will report to Sundar Pichai but maintain a more independent role.Read Article >
Dugan, who was named to The Verge 50 earlier this year, manages a team of just under 100 people, all of whom will be moving from their current offices in Sunnyvale to Google's Mountain View office.
Dec 7, 2013
Though Project Ara may be some ways off, Motorola phones could get even more customizable before then. Woodside says that we'll start to see more materials in Moto Maker down the road — not just wood (which is still "coming soon"), but materials that have different properties too. Of course, the ultimate goal is to allow consumers to be able to continually customize hardware over the life of their smartphone by setting up standardized components through Project Ara.Read Article >
"That's where the line between Ara and what we're doing with Moto Maker might converge," Woodside tells Brownlee. "But that might take some time." Woodside says that there's already a prototype built for Project Ara, but he won't suggest what the timeline is for bringing it to market. "Will we have a product in the next 12 months? It's hard to say."
Nov 22, 2013
Project Ara, Motorola's plan to create modular smartphones, is among the most ambitious ideas we've seen, but the company isn't wasting time in executing on its vision. 3D Systems has issued a press release confirming that it's partnering up with Motorola to "create a continuous high-speed 3D printing production platform and fulfillment system" for Ara. The deal announced today spans multiple years, and if 3D Systems is successful in building a manufacturing platform for Project Ara, it will also be creating its own Ara smartphone enclosures and modules "as Motorola’s exclusive fulfillment partner."Read Article >
3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental said in a statment, "Project Ara was conceived to build a platform that empowers consumers all over the world with customization for a product made by and for the individual." According to Reichental, 3D printing "promotes a level of sustainability, functionality, and mass personalization that turns these kinds of global ambitions into attainable local realities." There's no telling when you'll be able to build your own smartphone with Project Ara, but Motorola is clearly taking steps to make the modular smartphone concept a reality for consumers. We've reached out to the company for more details.
Oct 29, 2013
Upon hearing of Motorola’s Project Ara, it's easy to lapse into thinking about all the reasons why it'll be hard — almost impossible — to pull off: customers won't have incentive to buy new phones, modules will be too expensive; the list goes on. And if you can think of 30 reasons not to build such a thing, Motorola’s designers and engineers can probably come up with 300. But against all odds, they're doing it.Read Article >
The "why" of Project Ara is an inspiring vision of a more sustainable and democratic smartphone. Motorola wants to lower barriers to entry for new companies and consumers alike while helping to build an ecosystem of versatile devices that don’t get discarded as soon as any one component breaks down. The same flexibility that you gain from having an interchangeable battery can be magnified if everything from the display and cameras to the applications processor and wireless radios is also user-upgradeable. By swimming upstream against the current of ever-greater integration and consolidation, Motorola’s venture aims to produce "a phone worth keeping."
Oct 29, 2013
Motorola has unveiled Project Ara, an open-source initiative for modular smartphones with the goal to "do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software." The company plans to create an ecosystem that can support third-party hardware development for individual phone components — in other words, you could upgrade your phone's processor, display, and more by shopping at different vendors.Read Article >
Motorola will be working with Phonebloks, which recently showed off a similarly ambitious concept for modular smartphones; the Google-owned hardware manufacturer says that it plans to engage with the Phonebloks community throughout the development process and help realize the same idea with its technical expertise.