Google Releases More Details on Secret Project Ara

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More details have been released about Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Project Ara, as the first developer resources for the modular phone have come out after some footage of the Google team discussing the project showed up online earlier this week. The complete module developers kit can be downloaded here, and TechCrunch broke down some of the more important features of the phone-in-the-works.

Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group released the Module Developers Kit (MDK) that describes Ara. “The Ara platform consists of an on-device packet-switched data network based on the MIPI UniPro protocol stack, a flexible power bus, and an elegant industrial design that mechanically unites the modules with an endoskeleton,” the MDK reads.

If that’s enough to leave your head spinning, here’s a slightly simplified explanation of what a module phone is: A module phone is one that could have various components switched in and out on the fly. If the phone camera isn’t cutting it, a user could slide out the camera unit and put in a better camera. If the processor is a year old and too slow for the latest apps, a new one could be put in to replace it. The concept for Ara even included different screens and physical keyboard setups.

Such a set-up could make the current norm of waiting two long years to replace an outdated smartphone, at which point the entire device is thrown out in favor of all new parts, obsolete. This would be good for the environment, less wasteful overall, and could save consumers money by allowing them to replace the parts necessary when they need replacing, rather than waiting until a contract allows the entire device to be replaced.

“Ara’s success is predicated on a rich, vibrant, and diverse ecosystem of modules from a myriad of developers. Users would be able to select modules from an online marketplace using a configurator that facilitates user choice and curates the configuration process to ensure that the selection of modules provides the expected system-level functionality,” the MDK goes on to say. The MDK also notes that the phones will run on Android and will support the majority of Android apps.

Modular phones like Ara could also allow for much less expensive smartphones to be made, using only the minimum amount of modules to create a bare-bones working device. While the success of such a device may be challenged as wearables like smartwatches and smart glasses begin to replace traditional smartphones, modular phones have the potential to reduce waste and save people money, and they could represent the next big thing in smartphones.

The project is still in the early stages of development, and it’s uncertain when it will become commercially available. Paul Eremenko, the head of Project Ara, said that Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group was planning to have a commercially available model in the first months of 2015, reports Time. And it’s aiming to sell bare-bones models to the tune of $50, which certainly could lend to their ability to flood the market.

Cheap, Android-based smartphones have already shown much greater success in emerging markets than Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) competing iPhones, and this grows more crucial as emerging markets become the final frontier of growth for the smartphone industry. Ara could give Google one more leg up in that key market.

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