It’s alive! Google’s modular smartphone Project Ara launches in 2017

MUMBAI:Google made one hell of an announcement, on the very last day of its I/O 2016 developer conference: Project Ara i finally coming to life!
The tech giant made the announcement earlier today that developer versions for the modular smartphone will be shipping to developers later this year, and a consumer version will be ready for launch in 2017. Why is this a big deal you ask? Well, for the uninitiated, Project Ara has been a vision for Google’s experimental division for a few years now. The Advanced Technology and Products division, ATAP for short, has been on a mission to build the world’s first modular smartphone. Basically a Lego-like customisable phone, where you can swap out parts on the fly. Have to catch your child’s part in the school play on camera? Swap in a telephoto lens. Need something to do on a long trip? Maybe consider and e-ink display, or perhaps just a larger battery and a better loudspeaker module. The end-vision is that Google’s device will essentially be a skeletal structure, a scaffolding if you will, and you’ll independently be able to buy the pieces you want in your smartphone, and then change them as you see fit. Not only is that more consumer-friendly, as far as pricing goes, it’ll also greatly improve the lifetime of smartphones.

The problem so far has been that, great idea though it is, the actual implementation has been rocky. ATAP has famously been having trouble with building the connectors for the device to make modules hot-swappable, while still have them function correctly. It’s taken a couple of years of failed public demonstrations, as well as a lot of hush hush on the whole topic, but it looks like Ara is finally seeing the light. In an interview with Wired, ATAP technical project head Raf Camarago demonstrated the first ever working prototype; switching it on, swapping out a camera module, and capturing a photo.
Of course, Ara has changed a little bit from its previous iteration. Where earlier, every single component was a separate module, there’s now a key structure that includes a standard processor, RAM, display, and hard drive configuration. Everything else, however, is up to other players to build and sell. The developer version shipping later this year will have a 5.3-inch display, though that’s all we know of the key specs right now. Other modules are also standardized, so you should be able to socket any type of module into whichever slot you want, size permitting. There are a total of six to fit 1×2 or 2×2 modules. These so far include an e-ink display, camera modules with varying lenses and sensors, speaker/mic combinations, fingerprint scanners, and more. What’s more, all the module switching is controlled from the back end, so all you have to do is slot in a new piece and let the software do the heavy lifting.
Wired continues on to mention that at least 30 people in ATAP currently use Ara as their primary phone. That in itself should show how far along the project has come. Of course, there will be some a little disappointed by the fact that the processor or RAM can’t be swapped out, but the end result is still a smartphone absolutely worth buying. For more information, you can visit ATAP’s website