Don't Expect Google's Modular Ara Smartphone Anytime Soon

Don't Expect Google's Modular Ara Smartphone Anytime Soon

The "last phone you'll ever need to buy" won't be available for you to buy anytime soon. Google says that the super exciting Project Ara modular smartphone will launch in... Puerto Rico?

Yep, the United States island territory will be the first place you can get the crazy smartphone when Google launches a limited market pilot later in 2015. The January 2015 release date we heard earlier is sadly just for developers, as Google plans to ship big barebones dev boards to them later this month.

We also don't know how much the final version will cost or precisely when it will get there, but Google believes it will feature 4G LTE connectivity and at least a day's worth of battery life by the time it hits Puerto Rico shelves. It will have a new endoskeleton that can route cellular signals to more efficient antennas, and inductive wireless connections for each module instead of using spring-loaded pins. Google hopes to have 20-30 modules ready by then.

Google's cautioning that the day of battery life might require swapping out batteries in the middle of your day (!) but also may already have a solution: battery technologies that have traditionally been shunned by phone manufacturers because they can't be charged as many times as normal cells, but have many times the energy density. The charging issue isn't as big a problem here (I guess?) because the batteries are totally modular.

Don't Expect Google's Modular Ara Smartphone Anytime Soon

Why Puerto Rico? Take a peek at Google's slide above, but in case you can't read the small text, Google says that Puerto Rico has a very diverse population of smartphone users, lots of carriers, is a "gateway to the world" as far as the internet is concerned since it's a junction point for underwater cables, and also benefits from having same-day shipping anywhere on the island. Oh, and it's got some designated free trade zones that Google is eyeing carefully.

Don't Expect Google's Modular Ara Smartphone Anytime Soon

That said, this is just the market pilot: a full launch of the Ara device could be farther off, or perhaps not even happen at all. "We don't know the answer to that question," said Google ATAP director Regina Dugan, when asked how long it might be between the market pilot and a full global launch. See the roadmap above? We're only at the Spiral 2 phase right now.

Here's what Spiral 2 is all about:

Don't Expect Google's Modular Ara Smartphone Anytime Soon

Traditionally, Google ATAP's skunkworks mission is to turn advanced technology into real products within two years, or else move on, but Dugan say earlier today that this project might be the exception to the rule: ATAP might take "another two-year swing at it" as long as they know why their efforts failed.

How will Google sell Puerto Ricans on Project Ara? Food trucks. It's going to turn some food trucks into mobile stores, and roll them around the country while providing live demos.

Don't Expect Google's Modular Ara Smartphone Anytime Soon

You can follow the ongoing Project Ara Developer Conference livestream right here.



    Really? 1 day or not even 1 day of battery? Back in my day phones lasted over a week or month.

      You will note that one of the extra modules in the 2nd-last slide (above) is an extended battery. That's the appeal of this kind of device - you can add and subtract hardware to make a device that's perfect for your own personal needs.

      You could even have "spare" modules if you need certain hardware for one day, but different needs to the following day. Almost everything is swappable and upgradable.

      back in your day phone was only working as a phone ... there are options available on the market that do just that

      There's a bajillion different battery cases on the market it you want a long life brick phone. Personally I prefer the thin powerful phone as It never gets below 50% charge anyway, qi charging on my desk at work, on the kitchen bench and next to my bed, clicon car kit in my car.

      People just need to learn what tech works for them, you prefer an old school flip or candy bar with a weeks battery go and get one.

      Back in your day phone's did nothing but make calls, sms and allow you to play snake.

      You can still buy a phone like that, a $30 Asha should do the trick.

    It's not working...

    I'm throwing my money, my car and my firstborn at the screen and all I've got is a giant hole in the wall now and no modular phone :(

    I am pretty excited about ARA, just for the possibility of making the phone you really want (assuming you don't run out of slots first).

    In the future, I predict many iterations of the following conversation

    "Check out my awesome new modular phone!"
    "Cool, what dan you do with it?"
    "You can swap out parts and updgrade them, like I could put a better camera in here, or a specialised sensor, or a different radio, or anything."
    "Great, what do you swap?"
    "Uh, I change the battery once a day. Usually."

      Just because things are swappable doesn't mean anyone must swaps components of a daily basis.

      "I replaced the 2 year old processor with a newer one last month"
      "A 3D camera has come out that I'm considering buying"
      "I carry 3 replacement batteries for when I'm away for the weekend"
      "I dropped my phone and the screen cracked. Luckily I could get a new one for $50 and install it myself in a second".
      "I tried out a component my friend has and I'll probably get it as well."
      "I bought the new 4G 'heart' to replace the 3G one my current phone has. Heaps cheaper than buying a new phone and not needing to chuck away my perfectly good camera etc"

      Oh ye of little faith.

        I like the idea, however I'm 100 percent certain it will fail. There is some massive problems with it. Firstly you can already get a massive new phone for about $200 of contact from companies like ASUS with zenfone. Secondly mobile tech is innovating rapidly with battery life and water proofing really starting to improve but both possibly increasingly at the expense of modularity due to sealed unit designs. Thirdly any company sitting on a warehouse inventory with lots of bits will have to have lots of garage sales to rid themselves of slow moving, obsoleting stock. With high end phone performance rapidly becoming cheaper and cheaper with every month I really struggle to see this project becoming anything other than a small micro niche. For example just look at the HTC desire which was a sophisticated phone for years ago compared to today's budget releases and the quality is through the roof and the prices down to the basement.

          I think you underestimate the quality of warehouse inventory management systems.

          Also - waterproofing at the moment isn't great, and I don't think it will be for a while. Most people don't take their phone swimming with them at the moment, and for the benefits offered by the ARA I would be happy not to take my phone swimming in the future.

          You are right, technology is improving rapidly - but that is why this project will succeed. Instead of 'Hey, there is a new camera out with massively improved resolution, I need to buy a new phone', it becomes 'Hey, new camera, I can just buy that module and plug it into the other components that are still great'.

    Only thing that I see as being an issue here, is being able to create a front panel with integrated front facing stereo speakers similar to those on the HTC One line up. And it's only a problem because Google have created a separate "speaker" and front camera slot and not included one on the bottom of the phone. Perhaps they'll change the layout for the full global consumer release but they've stuck to this design up until this point so it seems quite pointless.

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