Modular smartphone on the horizon

Modular smartphone on the horizon

The long-rumored modular phone may soon become a reality.

Google’s Advanced Technology and Products division is rolling out the developer edition of its Project Ara smartphone frame this fall, so developers can begin making hardware components for the Android-based modular phone.

The frame has six slots that can be filled with modules as needed. The modular capability is powered by Greybus, new Android software that supports data-transfer rates of up to 11.9 gigabit/sec and the instant connections to the modules and the energy management. The phone’s baseplate provides components' hardware application program interfaces with an immediate connection to the frame’s technologies. 

The frame includes the central processing unit, the graphics processing unit, antennas, sensors, battery and display, which leaves room for more hardware in the modules. And Ara modules are built around standards that will allow them to work with new generations of frames and upgrades.

According to CNET, the developer edition will come with four modules: a speaker, a camera, a display and an expanded memory module. Google will also provide test beds and help developers  navigate the process of getting modules certified by federal regulatory agencies, CNET reported.

So far, developers can build modules like wider-angled cameras, screens, speakers, larger batteries and sensors, all of which can be snapped into place on the Ara frame. Besides offering more functionality, the replaceable modules could help users to lengthen the life of their phones.

Project Ara has been in the works since 2013 when it was first announced by Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects team, which was  later acquired by Google. According to Google ATAP, a few project announcements were made during Ara Development Conferences in 2014, but news of the project has been kept quiet until the recent announcements at I/O Conference.

According to Google, Ara-based phones should be ready for consumers by 2017.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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