Science and Tech


Project Ara: Google Pieces Together A Modular Phone

Google is developing a new smartphone with removable and replaceable parts, allowing consumers to upgrade without purchasing a new phone.
Posted at 1:40 PM, Feb 27, 2014

Tired of having to buy a new phone every two years just to keep from falling behind?  Well, Google might have a solution for you.

When Google sold Motorola to Lenovo for about $3 billion in late January, one small group of Motorola employees stayed behind with Google. (Via The Verge)

The group is called the Advanced Technology Group - or ATAP - and they're headed by Regina Dugan, former director of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or "DARPA." (Via TechCrunch)

ATAP has developed a phone, which is broken down into modules, allowing users to reconfigure it as updates become available.  For example, users would easily be able to put in a new camera or additional memory in as the technology becomes available. (Via Google)

In a blog post, Motorola refers to the design as an "endoskeleton and modules."  The endoskeleton is a frame that holds the modules in place.  The modules can be anything from a keyboard or battery to something that hasn't yet been though of.

TIME points out the efficiency the technology would bring. "In a world of modular phones, you might be able to pick...features and add them to the phone you already have. You’d even be able to pick among multiple cameras, or choose quirky features not meant for the masses."

When ATAP starts on a project, they like to give about a two year window for development. Paul Eremenko, the head of the Ara team, told TIME one of the greatest parts of the project was that it was so obviously profitable.  He didn't have to make a business case to Google, so he was able to focus on the design.

Google plans to host a developer conference for the device in April and have units ready to ship about a year from now.