ARA means your next smartphone could be modular

Project ARA is about to change the face of the mobile world. ARA means that you could potentially design or redesign your own smartphone on the fly. You could add extra battery modules. Companies could develop modules for the ARA phones. For example, Canon could develop a modular camera, JBL could develop a modular sound system. Families could swap and share modules. If you crack your screen you could simply slide in a new screen module. The ARA endo-skeleton can be customized both front and back. In fact Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group plans to market test the product in 2015.

ara smartphone
Image courtesy of ARA MDK documentation:
Image courtesy of ARA MDK documentation:

According to Technology Review, “Google plans to start selling Ara phones to customers in Puerto Rico as a test market at some point this year, in collaboration with two wireless carriers. The phones will be sold from trucks that function as mobile stores, as well as over the Internet.” With this aggressive vision in mind it’s apparent that Google is serious about making this product a reality. Some analysts even predict ARA could go to market even before Google Glass.

Just imagine the possibilities with 3D printers. In the future you could potentially download a blueprint for an ARA module and print it out on your 3D printer. This is being discussed on Reddit. However ARA is not quite there yet according to the ARA FAQ, they “did look at 3D printing module shells, and have been working on a production 3D printing system capable of putting out high-quality, consumer-grade materials. However, in the near term we are making the module shells out of injection-molded polycarbonate plastic and using a technology called dye sublimation to create the full-color, high-resolution image of your cat… or whatever else suits your fancy.”

“Project Ara aims to enable users to create a modular smartphone that is precisely tailored to their functional and aesthetic preferences,” according to the ARA FAQ. The Project ARA Forum can be found here. If you’re interested in participating in the project as a developer you can download the MDK or Module Development Kit.

If you’re interested in looking at some prototype pictures you can go here. Otherwise these videos will demonstrate the huge value of the ARA vision.


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