Google's Project Ara Is Building A New Phone One Piece At A Time

by Scott Lewis on February 27, 2014

Last month Google announced that they were selling Motorola to the Chinese electronics company Lenovo. Google's ownership of Motorola was short-lived and unprofitable, but during the sale Google still retained the portion of the company called ATAP. The Advanced Technology and Projects group is an innovative and forward thinking group similar to one of Google's other groups they call Google X. They are the creators of Google Glass and they are diligently working on other incredible projects like self-driving cars and broadband balloons. Since Google is already involved in these other projects it made sense for them to keep this similar division in house. In 2013, ATAP began working on a development called Project Ara.

Project Ara is a modular smartphone concept that allows the consumer to purchase a start-up model and completely customize it by adding and switching out the components or blocks. I am not talking about just changing the color, or size, or ring tone. You will be able to change the processor, camera, battery, storage, RAM, and other core modules. Project Ara's website claims that this smartphone is "Designed exclusively for 6 billion people." That is a pretty bold statement.

One of Google's missions is to get internet access to the over 5 billion people worldwide that are without the luxury. Project Ara could offer an affordable option for many of those people. The base concept would essentially be a smartphone with Wi-Fi capability only, no cellular function. With the possibility of it being introduced for just $50, it would be in the financial reach of many.

This idea is relatively new to the smartphone industry, Chinese company ZTE showed off a prototype for their Eco-Mobius at CES2014. I was able to get a look at its sleek design, but only through the glass. Unfortunately, no one was able to get their hands on it. I haven't heard anything additional about the ZTE Eco- Mobius, but Google is definitely moving forward with their ideas. They have an online conference for Project Ara scheduled for April 15-16.

The price point of this new device is expected to start around $50. There has not been any definite announcements as to what that will include or what options will be available but Google is committed to this project and is expected to have a prototype very soon with a consumer release date of first quarter 2015.