Google has introduced its Project Ara developing a modular smartphone that could be tailored to individual needs of every user.
Unveiled at the Ara Developers Conferences in Santa Clara, California, the USA, the phone consists of multiple modules that could be flexibly connected to an endoskeleton via electro-permanent magnets. By swapping those modules – including a battery or a camera – every user should be able to create his own original version of the phone from the ARA kit.
Google believes that by allowing users to continuously update the hardware, the gadgets will be used for longer than current smartphones, with the life-time estimated to up to six years.
Envisioning the ARA project as an open-source platform, Google has released the ARA Module Developers Kit (MDK) to interested researchers, encouraging them to develop their own original modules that could be used as a part of the phone. This way, Google wants to encourage similarly open and creative environment in the hardware development domain as it already exists in Apps.
Instead of a single hardware manufacturer, the modules would come from various sources and would be produced using various methods including 3D-printing.
The early alpha release of the MDK relies on a prototype implementation of the Ara on-device network using the MIPI UniPro protocol implemented on FPGA and running over an LVDS physical layer. Subsequent versions will soon be built around a much more efficient and higher performance ASIC implementation of UniPro, running over a capacitive M-PHY physical layer.
Project Ara is being developed by Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP), originally a part of Motorola, acquired by Google in 2012. Google kept ATAP despite selling the Motorola business to Lenovo in early 2014.
Google said first commercial version of the phone should be available in early 2015.