Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone will go on sale in January 2015, according to Paul Eremenko, head of the tech company’s department that wishes to revolutionize the smartphone market. During the first Ara developer’s conference on Tuesday, Eremenko presented a prototype with a cracked screen, which “doesn’t quite boot,” but the overall presentation offered developers a clear idea of how a modular smartphone aims at changing an entire market. The next two conferences will be held in July and September and Eremenko assured the audience that Project Ara will be finished until April 2015, two years after it started.
Google’s modular smartphone will go on sale in January 2015 and will cost around $50, according to the head of Project Ara Paul Eremenko. He offered the 200 people at the Computer History Museum a glimpse of a “gray phone,” which will be personalized depending on what the owner needs.
“It’s called the Gray Phone because it’s meant to be drab gray to get people to customize it,” Eremenko said.
Google’s ambitious idea features a basic exoskeleton which will shelter the standard-sized modules that produce a personalized smartphone. The prototype Eremenko showed the crowd had room enough for five 2×1 and two 2×2 unit modules, which leaves users the freedom to purchase additional modules to build the phone as they want. However, the tech company’s plan is to supply the “gray phone” with a screen, battery, processor and WiFi module.
During the event, Eremenko also told the developers that Google’s modular smartphone does not aim at the tech-savvy, early buyers who already have the latest gadgets. Instead, the tech giant wishes to focus on ” the next five billion,” namely on people who are not as familiar or interested in purchasing smartphones. According to Eremenko, Project Ara will help boost the size and competitiveness of the hardware market and diminish considerably the time it takes to create a phone. The company will have an e-commerce site that will work side by side with Google Play Store and purchasing modules online will not be too different from purchasing an app.
However, since Ara phones will support Android, Eremenko admitted that the challenge is to make the Android operating system to “support dynamic hardware.”
“The good news is that we’re Google,” Eremenko added, and promised developers that this problem will be solved in December, one month before the product becomes available.
Another advantage of the modular smartphone is that it lasts for “five to six years,” so when a person wants to change an outdated module and purchase a new or better one, he or she will not have to buy a new phone. At the same time, connecting the modules is an easy job, thanks to the electro-permanent magnets, which will use the UniPro standard for communication between modules. Simplicity characterizes the whole concept of grey phone, which could be bought from a local convenience store. Eremenko stated that the three steps that stand between a plain exoskeleton and a modular smartphone are the following: “fire up your grey phone, run the Ara configurator and start purchasing modules in the marketplace.” Although the head of Project Ara did not have his “Steve Jobs moment” and could not offer tangible results just yet, Google’s modular smartphone will go on sale in January 2015.
By Gabriela Motroc