For a while now, the world has waited and wondered when Google would take the plunge and build its own Android phone for consumers, and directly take on the iPhone — there have been hints and leaks, but nothing concrete.
On Friday, at its I/O conference, Google announced that it’s moving the ambitious Project Ara modular smartphone team out of the ATAP research lab and into its own proper unit within Google, under new hardware chief (and former Motorola president) Rick Osterloh. Developer kits will be shipped this fall. And a consumer Ara phone is coming in 2017 as well (yaay!), marking the first time Google has ever built its own phone hardware — Nexus phones have been built by partners like Huawei, LG, and HTC.
What is Project Ara?
Smartphones have gotten lighter, faster, cooler, sleeker, smarter. But their average lifetime is still about 2 years, give or take. We’re forced to trade them in every time a single, seemingly important, part gives out. Or when there’s a phone with fancier features out on the market and we don’t wanna be left behind.
But imagine if we could only replace/enhance the modules we wanted? The kind of freedom this would give the consumer is nothing short of revolutionary. And Google, being the visionary we know and love, wants to give us exactly that. They want to revolutionize the smartphone industry by building a fully customizable modular smartphone of the future.
Google showed off a working prototype version of Ara, which lets you live-swap hardware modules like cameras and speakers onto a base frame which contains the core phone components. To add to the awesomeness, you could even say something like, “Okay, Google, eject the camera” to release modules. It has six modular slots — each one is generic, so you can put any module in any slot, and they’re all linked up through new open standard called Unipro that can push 11.9 gigabits of data in both directions. (For more on this, you could check out this piece from WIRED.)
This video is just a taste of something truly groundbreaking that’s on the horizon. And after all this time, it seems like Project Ara is actually coming together. And it could very well be the last phone you ever have to buy. Are you excited yet?