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Ever since its announcement late last year, we’ve been eagerly scooping up any and all news about Google’s Project Ara, a customizable, modular smartphone. Yesterday at Google’s first Project Ara developer’s conference, the company officially announced its plans to release the phone in January of 2015 for the low-low price of $50. That confirms an earlier, informal announcement made by the company, which at the time said that the phone would only be packed with a Wi-Fi card, leaving users to buy components to flesh out the rest of the device and actually make it, you know, a phone.

Paul Eremenko, Ara’s project lead, explained the company’s plans at the conference, saying that the first version of the device to hit the market will be known as the “Gray Phone,” explaining that “It’s called the Gray Phone because it’s meant to be drab gray to get people to customize it.”

project-ara-2-300x150And those customizations will come courtesy of a gigantic 3D printer being built by 3D Systems, a Project Ara partner that’s working on a way to print the modules at low costs and high speeds. The good news is that it could give developers the ability to create modules themselves, provided they can afford the printer. It should also give users tons of customization options if they want to order modules directly from whatever providers have these printers, be they 3D Systems or Google itself.

The bad news, of course, is that it seems very unlikely that users will be able to download plans and print out the modules on their own. That’s not terribly surprising, given the highly specialized nature of the modules. But the idea that users could potentially cut out the middle-man to build their own phones at home was an enticing one. Even still, the entire Project Ara concept is no less exciting.

project-ara-mdk-1When it’s released, Project Ara will support Android, though a post on CNET reporting the details from the conference points out that, as yet, Android doesn’t support Project Ara. Eremenko discussed the situation:

“It’s true that Android does not support dynamic hardware today. The good news is that we’re Google.”

From there Eremenko confirmed that Android drivers will be developed towards the end of the Project Ara cycle, and should be released in December 2014.

Now that we know that Project Ara is coming, does this change your plans for the future of your mobile device? I’m not gonna lie: I am extremely interested in getting myself a Project Ara when it releases next year. I assume I’ll be able to just swap in my current SIM card so I can try it out. But while Google says that the Gray Phone will only cost $50, the real costs will come in all the various parts that we can pack into the Ara. So how much will a fully customized, decently built Ara phone cost? Will the initial outlay be worth the ability to upgrade bit-by-bit over the next five years after buying the first endo?

[Source: CNET]

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