Google's modular Project Ara phone could go on sale in early 2015 for $50

Project Ara

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Motorola may be Lenovo's now, but Google didn't entirely get out of the phone business as a result. The company is still working on the Project Ara modular phone, and the company hopes to roll out a basic $50 handset as soon as early 2015, according to Time.

Project Ara is being developed by Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group—a Motorola team that is staying inside Google, rather than moving to Lenovo.

Google has been pretty quiet about Ara after introducing the concept in October. But the company recently gave Time a behind the scenes look at its plans for the handset you'd be able to customize over and over, using swappable hardware modules that change a phone's functionality.


In-progress prototypes of Ara smartphone modules. (Click to enlarge.)

Modular phones are a fascinating idea and would be far more customizable than Google's over-hyped Moto X personalization features.

Google says it is shooting to produce a basic $50 "grayphone" available at convenience stores and Google-owned mobile kiosks by early 2015. The basic device would come only with Wi-Fi and no cellular radio. But using the kiosks or an app built into phones bought at convenience stores, you could begin to customize your device with extra hardware modules.

araphone industrial design model

Google's industrial design model of Project Ara.

Google won't say whether its initial Ara roll-out (assuming it gets that far) will include the U.S.

In true Google fashion, the company also has some interesting ideas about how Ara would work. The company wants to make Ara phones hot swappable, meaning you could switch, say, a camera module for an extra battery without powering down the device.

The enclosure for the device would be 3D printed, allowing you to customize the body just the way you want it. In time, perhaps even phone internals such as the antenna could be produced by a 3D printer.

Google also wants its kiosks to use biofeedback such as pupil dilation and heart rate, to figure out whether you're enjoying or hating the initial start-up process for your Ara handset. If you're hating it, the kiosk would drive the recommendation process based on your anxiety level.

It all sounds pretty far out there, and for now it's all just a dream. The current reality for Google is to have its first working prototype ready in the coming weeks for the company's debut Project Ara developer conference scheduled for April 15-16.

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