The first modular smartphone may not be as far off as we thought. A new report from Time reveals Google’s plans to launch the first Project Ara smartphone in early 2015 starting at just $50. The company’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group expects to have a functioning prototype finished within the next few weeks.
The first Ara smartphone won’t look like much compared to the latest flagship devices. The device will be Wi-Fi only with no cellular connection, and Google expects it to be a bit on the thick side at 10mm compared to the 7.6mm iPhone 5s. But early adopters won’t just be buying a new smartphone, they’ll be buying into a new platform where upgrading your device’s battery, camera, processor and even its design is always an option.
Swapping out components will be extremely simple, and won’t even require turning off your smartphone. Instead, you’ll use an app to unlock individual modules before pulling them out and switching in whatever you want. The design also holds each module with a lock mechanism so your phone doesn’t fall apart in your pocket or if it falls to the ground.
The only thing that won’t be subject to change is the phone’s size. Google plans to sell the device in three sizes, offering aluminum frames in mini, medium or jumbo varieties. The frames will offer circuits to connect your different modules and a small back-up battery, while everything else will be up to the user.
Everything else will be in the hands of developers. Google hopes to blow the market open with Project Ara, letting manufacturers compete over individual smartphone component markets.
“If it turns out that consumers really care about megapixels in cameras, then your bajillion-megapixel camera is going to sell,” Project Ara’s leader, Paul Eremenko tells Time. “And if it turns out that consumers don’t, then it won’t.”
We certainly wouldn’t mind a bajillion-megapixel smartphone camera, but with Project Ara the possibilities for innovation seem endless. Packing in extra pixels is just be the beginning.