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Google ATAP Project Ara modules

Google today revealed the first details of its Ara Developers' Conference, a series of events that'll focus on getting devs up to speed on the current and upcoming features of Project Ara, details on the Module Developers' Kit and even some prize challenges. Now some additional details of the Project Ara modular smartphone effort have been revealed to Time by Google's Paul Eremenko.

Eremenko explains that the Project Ara team is working toward creating a "grayphone" shell of a device that would cost $50 and feature a frame, screen and Wi-Fi radio. Users would then be able to plug in whichever modules that they'd like most in their smartphone.

The shells, also called endoskeletons or "endos" for short, are expected to be offered in mini, medium and jumbo phablet-style sizes. The medium endo would offer enough space for 10 modules. These endos are made of aluminum and, while they currently can attach to modules using pins, Google eventually plans to use capacitive connections to save space. The modules measure approximately 4mm thick, and the current Ara smartphone prototype that Google's got kicking around in its labs measures approximately 9.7mm thick.

When Google begins offering Ara phones to consumers, it hopes to have three methods of purchase available. The first would be to buy the aforementioned $50 grayphone that would run an app for further customization of the unit. The second method would be for a consumer to use another person's Ara phone to create one of their own. Finally, Google wants to offer a mobile kiosk that would help consumers to create their own Ara phone, possibly even by making recommendations based on a user's emotions and the contents of his or her social media profiles. For example, someone with lots of photos may get a recommendation for a nice camera module.

All of this sounds nice, but I'm sure that many of you are wondering what the status of Project Ara is right now. Eremenko says that Google is working on a prototype unit that's weeks away from completion. The company is aiming to have the first commercially-available model ready by Q1 2015.

Project Ara is an intriguing effort, and it's exciting to finally have received so much information on it after a prolonged period of silence. The project still has a ways to go before it'll be ready for the public, and there are still quite a few questions surrounding it, including how its modules will gain regulatory approval and even what the final name of the hardware will be. Ara is shaping up to be the most unique way to buy a smartphone that we've seen in years, and it could lead to consumers being more happy with their devices than ever before and keeping them for longer, too.

It'll definitely be interesting to see how the public reacts to Ara if the project launches as Google wants it to. It's kind of a bummer that we'll have to wait another year for that to happen, but the good news is that we'll start getting our first substantial bits of Ara info in a little over a month.

Now that we know more about Project Ara and Google's goals for the effort, what do you think of it? Are you excited for more details to come out in April?


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