We’ve been following any detail of Project Ara, Google ATAP’s attempts at a modular smartphone, ever since we first heard about it last year. After the keynote speech wrapped at I/O last week, Google gave up a little bit more information about Ara and even attempted to boot it up on stage.
It was exciting to see the thing in real life. It was also a bit less exciting to see that Google couldn’t quite get it to boot:
The end of the video also features a promo for Ara in which the developers on the project offer their hopes for potential modules. A post on Re/code reveals that Google might be courting companies like Leica to create camera modules, as well as tech corporations who might want to make high end speaker modules, or maybe even tactile keyboards.
We also got some more details about how Ara will work. As we’ve learned before, Project Ara phones will be built by plugging modules into an endoskeleton, known as “endos.” Each one will have a small built-in battery to let users “hot swap” fresh battery modules if they run out of juice – which, apparently, might be an issue with Ara when it’s eventually released to the public early next year. Project lead Paul Eremenko explains:
“You have to carry a little bit more battery, because all of the network-on-device stuff consumes more power. And it’s a bit thicker than the thinnest devices today. But you’re actually not sacrificing much of anything. And for the consumer, living in the modular world is a lot more exciting.”
Without question, if any company can pull off a modular smartphone, it’s Google. There have been lots of rumors that Google will be killing off the Nexus line of devices by the end of the year, with maybe one or two more entrants to come before the plug is pulled. If that’s true, it might partially be because of the impending arrival of Project Ara, a Google-made smartphone that runs Android, and is closer to Google’s vision for the smartphone’s future. Why build a single slab of a smartphone that’s going to compete with your modular masterpiece?
If Project Ara does, indeed, launch early next year, you can bet I’ll be grabbing one.