Skip to main content

Here are some of the crazy phones you can build with Google's Project Ara

Here are some of the crazy phones you can build with Google's Project Ara

Share this story

Google is starting to show developers what they need to do to create swappable parts for its upcoming modular smartphones, currently called Project Ara. On Ara's website, it's just posted the Module Developers Kit, which contains the information that manufacturers need to get started creating modular parts. "Ara’s success is predicated on a rich, vibrant, and diverse ecosystem of modules from a myriad of developers," one document in the kit reads.

Ara phones begin as no more than a skeleton, before owners plug in everything from a display and processor to a camera and Wi-Fi unit in order to complete them. Google wants many of those modules — including some unorthodox ones — to come from third-party developers. Google previously announced that it would begin working with developers later this month at a virtual conference that begins next week. Now, eager developers will actually be able to take a look beforehand to get a head start going in.

Guidelines show how to create common modules, like cameras

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.


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.

Phones should have a "smooth, flat, pebble" shape

Ara phones will, naturally, be running Android, and the developer kit says that apps for Ara shouldn't be significantly different from traditional Android apps in any way. It also says that Ara phones are designed to have a "smooth, flat, pebble form," despite their blocky construction. And indeed, from the photos that we've seen so far, they do look surprisingly stylish.

As for how consumers will figure out how to put all of these pieces together, Google is planning to create an online marketplace with a tool to help buyers configure their phones. Though Project Ara may have at first sounded like a far-out experiment, Google's actually hoping to have the very first Ara phones on sale in the first quarter of next year. This development kit is still in an early version — and it definitely looks that way — but letting developers get moving is one of the bigger pieces that Google will need if it wants Ara to have a successful launch.

Watch now: 90 Seconds on The Verge

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 24 Not just you

E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


A
Youtube
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


A
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.