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Google Project Ara – Everything you need to know

It is well known how significant role in the life of a modern man covers his smartphone. Surely we can not imagine a day without it. However, nothing is perfect.

Most would agree that they are not completely satisfied with their smartphone, we often find deficiencies, and we’d love of our phones to do so much more for us. We would all have liked if any better solution had appear, something much better than a conventional smartphone.

But what if there is something revolutionary? Something better. Something that will throw an ordinary smartphone into oblivion.

Parts of a functional prototype of the Project Ara phone
Parts of a functional prototype of the Project Ara phone — still a work in progress — including the endoskeleton frame, the screen, electrical components and custom 3D-printed module enclosures.
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Technology is constantly evolving and progressing. Always tends to take one step further. Google took that step. It stepped into a new project that aims to develop a platform for creating modular smartphone. The project carries the name Ara.

Google project Ara is named after its co-founder, Ara Knaian, who is also a leading mechanical designer on the project. The platform follows open-source model – every physical object occurs as a result of the public sharing of information. The base of the platform is the structural frame, the skeleton of the device, which includes modules that smartphone users would choose, for example, screen, camera, and even a spare battery. Thus, users will be able to replace any damaged part on his or hers mobile pet. And what is even more fascinating, is that as the new module-launch, users will be able to buy it and build on each part individually, without buying another mobile phone. This will extend the life of your device and contribute to reducing electronic waste. Also, the user will always have a modern device.

According to  Google, only one billion people in the world use the smartphone, and the other five billion use outdated models of mobile phones. That’s why Google intends Ara smartphone to all “six billion” people. It is intended that the starter kit costs US $50 and includes a frame, screen, battery,  low-end CPU and WiFi. This way most of us could afford it. The minimum price of the device with additional components solid capacity, estimated at US $100.


Imagine that you can build a hardware configuration for your smartphone to be whatever you want. With Ara smartphone this is possible. You can choose between the pile of different parts and take the one that suits you the most. For example, you specify the kind of camera you want – choose a camera for your phone, rather than picking your phone for the camera.

Ara smartphone seems to be like an ordinary rectangular metal frame. It is divided into smaller rectangles, known as “endos”, that look like pockets. Modules are stored within these pockets. It is expected that the price of a frame itself costs about 15 US dollars. The framework would be the only part made by Google. So, Google sells only a framework, not the whole phone. Other parts are purchased separately from the manufacturers that the user wants. The framework represents a switch that interconnects all attached modules.

On the front side there are slots, ie. pockets, for placing display and other modules. Additional slots, as well as electronic circuit boards and contacts are located on the back. These slots come in standard sizes of 1×1, 1×2 and 2×2.

Each module looks like a tile and it fits within one of the above mentioned smaller frame. For example, one tile can be a camera, another processor. It is also possible to remove one of the tiles you want and put in medical or gaming add-on instead.

There are multiple frame sizes, for the larger and smaller devices. At first, it will be only two sizes:

  • mini – about the size of Nokia 3310,
  • medium – about the size of the LG Nexus 5.

Later will be offered a third size, large, about the size of Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phone.

A sample sketch for project Ara concept by Garrett Kinsman
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Speed of a data transfer from one to the other module can reach up to 10 gigabits/sec for a single connection. There are 2×2 modules with two connections and with them, logically, data transffering speed is doubled.

Along with the frame comes another, spare battery, so that the main battery can be replaced without turning off the device. It’ll be possible to insert module whose size is compatible with the corresponding pocket. Modules can be hot-swapped and they are secured with electropermanent magnets. They are primarily intended to be produced by 3D printing. However, due to the lack of development in technology, Google has opted for a more customizable way of creating modules.

Ara smartphone will run on the Android operating system. The modules perform common functions as the existing smartphone (camera, speakers …), but there are additional features, such as receipt printers, medical devices, laser pointers, video game consoles, pico projector, night vision sensors…


Thanks to modular platform, the possibilities are endless. Your phone can be the same as your car keys. You could possess a sensor that tests the water quality, which, at the same time, is your smartphone. Select phone made just for gamers, if you are one of them, or buy a great microphone for it. Going on a camping trip and you do not have access to electricity, so you can not recharge the battery? Now it is no longer a problem. Choose a battery that lasts for days.

Besides this you can be your own servicer. Replace a cracked display. Install a professional camera. You can share a module with your friends or family. You will no longer have a need to change the mobile phone every few years. Just update the parts. This is not the end. If you are a sports fan, you can install your favorite team logo on your smartphone.

Andy Berndt’s “blinged out” Project Ara concept.
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The very idea of this project sounds amazing and fantastic. But it’s possible and these devices will soon be available to us. Unfortunately, the exact date when they will appear on the market remains unknown. The plan is for that to happen this (2015) year. However, it is known that the pilot testing will begin this year in Puerto Rico.

As the price is concerned, it depends on several factors. One of the factors is the frame size, and we must take into consider the prices of components chosen by user. For now, it is known that the average cost goes somewhere between 50 and 100 US dollars, which is quite acceptable, considering the possibilities this device has to offer.

Google Project Ara - Everything you need to know
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Google Project Ara - Everything you need to know
This article is about modular smartphone named Ara, created by Google.