When the people who brought you Android start working on their very own phone, known as Project Ara, it’s time to get excited.
Haven’t Google created loads of phones in the past?
Yes and no. It’s more accurate to say Google have commissioned smartphones. A range of manufacturers, including LG, Samsung, HTC and most recently Huawei, have been created with the support of Google. The behemoth tech company looks after marketing and design while the manufacturers look after the rest. The difference with Project Ara is Google will build this on their own, though Motorola were involved at the beginning prior to Google acquiring that area of the telecoms business.
The goal of Project Ara
Project Ara is a fascinating endeavour for a lot more than tech reasons. The Google handset is modular, meaning you buy a base model and add the features that you need. The rollout plan aims to have the Project Ara handset reach six billion people, with one million of these people being first time mobile phone users. To encourage adoption, will ship with a basic skeleton for around €50, where the user adds features they want. The benefit here is similar to what Google is attempting with the Daydream and overcomes the problem a similar idea by LG will encounter: having enough base models of one unit to encourage development of compatible modules.
Why we need Project Ara to work
Since 2013, Facebook have been testing various methods of delivering an internet connection to 4.5 billion people never connected before through internet.org. Google are looking to do the same thing with hardware. By creating an affordable handset, adoption rates in poorer areas are likely to increase. Even better is the lifespan on the unit being vastly increased for the user.
Should the user require a better battery life or a camera replaced, they need only replace the related module. Google have also stated that the handset will be open source, meaning anyone can develop modules. The potential here is enormous. Specialist modules can be added to the device for medical use, also being interchangeable without the device being powered off.
Why we want Project Ara to work
There are less world changing reasons we want to see this Google project work. It’s cool. People are upgrading their handsets less frequently than ever, made evident through the latest ComReg report and general handset sales worldwide have slowed. Being able to upgrade elements of your smartphone without throwing it away reduces waste and the cost to the user. Everything about this project is pretty much improving how we think about smartphone.
Finally, modular smartphones are cool. Having a phone that can grow with your needs is an amazing concept. Bring an extra battery unit to a festival or carry a module that acts as a stand for watching movies on train journeys.
Project Ara release date and price
This Google handset is expected to roll out in early 2017 with developer handsets being available later this year.