David Papp Blog

Google $50 DIY Modular Smartphone – Project Ara

Currently targeted for January 2015 is a $50 modular smartphone which would include the Ara chassis, low-end processor, a display, Android OS, a battery, and WiFi. Google’s Project Ara would use components that are held by electro-permanent magnets. The modules would attach as Phonebloks to an endoskeleton. Additional modules could be easily attached such as new displays, processor, additional batteries, or storage.

One hurdle they are working to overcome is regarding the Android operating system which doesn’t currently support modular components and they are working on drivers to be developed to have it all work.

Check out additional information and photos on gizmag:


39 thoughts on “Google $50 DIY Modular Smartphone – Project Ara”

  1. I’m really interested in this project, modular phones have always been the intriguing part of mobile platforms. It’s almost as if someone decided to take them modularity of a normal personal computer put it on to a phone. I definitely looking forward to seeing how this project will actually turn up in the marketplace. I’m sure there will be people out there that want to be able to upgrade certain features on their phones rather than others. I’m sure there are some users that are going to want a massive battery compared to others who would want a better camera. The added bonus of being able to upgrade the technology that uses so that mobile networking won’t be hindered by an old modem and you won’t have to abandon your old phone you can just keep it and never have to really get used to a new phone, because it’s still your old phone.

  2. So by modular do you mean that you can add and detach components like a desktop computer or laptop? Because that would be so cool! I would love to have one of these things. For only $50 that seems like a steal, considering what you could do with it. Hopefully they would make the phone be able to handle high powered hardware so you could really take your phone to the next level. I’d definitely use mine for more than the two year contract I’d have it on! Unless they came out with a new modular phone that could take better equipment!

  3. I think this is a very nice idea.
    However, as of right now I doubt that this is going to take off, mainly due to mobile carriers’ attitude. They make tons of money, and chain customers to them by selling them high-end phones very “cheap”.
    With modular phones like these, this would be much harder to accomplish, as people could just buy the parts from somewhere else, even if the chassis part was attached to the carrier.

  4. Finally this is happening. I’ve fancied about the idea of just that and I’m looking forward to purchasing one. I hate how you have to upgrade every year and it costs more money every time. This could just be the answer I needed.

  5. It is a great concept if we see it made into practice. But as I use my computers and mobile phones more as a tools I care less about the configuration, so I don’t think this is really for me, I rather change my PC every 3 years, and my cellphone every 2, so all in all it is a good concept, for some people. I hope we will see it happen just to stir up the competition a bit.

  6. I think this is a great project, now people can customize their phone to meet their needs. eg, if I like taking picture, I would like a better camera on the phone. If I just want basic call and text, I can take out the camera and put a larger battery. It also allows people to update their hardware easily. It helps to reduce waste.

  7. The though of replacing older or damaged components at will is amazing. It would be very cool to purchase a new camera module or more memory and be able to sell the old pieces. It would also be nice to easily replace a phones screen without taking the entire thing apart!

  8. I love this concept and it makes such perfect sense. Get modules you want, take off ones you don’t want. It’ll be interesting how durable the phone is after a few months of use though. Although, I am sure that $50 is the price of the endoskeleton, wonder how much the individual modules will go for?

  9. This might be the future of mobiles. I’m really tired of seeing a new phone every month which is better than my mobile. I’m one of those latest and greatest freak. I’d really love to modify my mobile according to new trends without creating that much waste.

  10. Very interesting idea, I’d be interested in buying this if it’s ever created, not only would it be unique and cool, it’s environmentally friendly as well because you don’t have to buy whole new phones to upgrade.

    Doubt it would be marketed at a reasonable price though, and if it was, it would sell out in a matter of minutes.

    Just relying on the android market to pull this through!

  11. I think that this is so interesting! I have heard about “Project Ara”, but I didn’t know exactly what it was.

    I think this could take phones to the next level. In a way, they will be much more like computers. Almost nobody has the same specifications in their laptop or computer, but they almost all run either Windows or Mac. If you think about it, the majority of people who have smart phones have the most popular ones, meaning they all have the same phone specs. If Ara was successful, it would change the whole game up and it would be highly unlikely that two people would have the same phones, but they could still either run Android or iOS? This could possibly bring even more customization to phones.

  12. I personally thing this won’t work very well. When components can be taken off easily as advertised for this phone. There is so much to go wrong. I remember reading a comment when this first came out explaining how and why it can go wrong in so many ways.

    Just connecting the hardware to each other to make the machine run is going to be insane. The amount of times this phone can break will increase due to the fact none of the parts are actually connected other than using a magnet to keep them together.
    What happens if you drop the phone by mistake? Will it shatter into a million pieces and you have to dig around the area finding all the components that fall off..

    It is a good idea for a cheap phone, that way everyone has the ability to buy a phone and use it if they need contact with others. This idea enhances connectivity between one another.

  13. Oh man, I am so excited for this. I really believe that modular phones are the future of mobile devices. The only thing that will really hold it back is just the lack of knowledge in consumers and them not wanting to deal with a phone that is “complex” in their eyes. Most people just want a simple device that is easy to use and understand, which is why most people pick iPhone over Android. With the introduction of modular phones, it is going to take a while to get people interested but hopefully people can understand that these phones would be so much more useful.

  14. When it is time to upgrade my desktop PC, I take a hard look at whether replacing only some components make sense (e.g. RAM), or the entire CPU cabinet. Almost always, I end up replacing the cabinet since the price difference for getting the new additional components are low.

    I believe the success of Project Ara will be decided based on how components are priced vs. the overall phone.

    Of course, this is in addition to how the different components work together as a whole!

  15. This is very intriguing. When this is finished, people would be able to create their own phones. Be it a higher resolution screen or a great CPU, we would be able to choose what we want. I believe this is gonna revolutionize the phone market if done correctly.

  16. This is exciting. I can’t wait to see where it goes. I would love to be able to update aspects of my actual phone, rather than having to buy a new phone when it is outdated. I hope this works out in the end.

  17. If this would be a thing soon then I have to have one. The idea is brilliant! When I first heard about it I was stunned, that’s exactly what we need right now. With technology fast advancing and most of can’t really cope up with a yearly release of a new phone, this project might be a God send for most of us. I surely want to know more about this, I hope it reaches market soon enough.

  18. I’ve been waiting for the “universal memory module” for quite some time. Project Ara sparks my imagination to fly to a time where parts for PC, mobiles, laptops, tablets and everything else are interchangeable. The computing principles are the same. Even having a detachable processor which you could plug into your smart TV, your laptop and the rest of computing devices isn’t far-fetched.

    Even further, why do we need to connect the devices physically? Wouldn’t it be cool to merely take the components closer to the devices for “attaching” them.

    Imagine wireless ram. You keep your module at a certain distance of your desktop to boost its ram; then take it in your backpack to increase the ram of your tablet on the go.

    You might think wireless isn’t optimal, but if you look back at the progression of data transfer speeds, you’ll see the current wireless standards we routinely enjoy were dreamy some decades ago.

    Hope project Ara starts a revolution in computing, not only bringing exchangeable parts to mobile phones, but beyond (hey! A man can dream –and every great new invention started in someone’s mind).

  19. Hopefully with the impending Google i/o conference coming up we’ll get some details on Project Ara.
    There have been rumblings that the Nexus line may be coming to an end after this year and it makes you wonder if they may have something else in place.

    That said, you also have to factor in that Project Ara was also linked to Motorola, wasn’t it? We know they’ve sold that branch to Lenovo, but kept projects like Ara still remain with Google. Did the plan change after the sale? We might find out in as soon as 2 weeks.

  20. This is interesting, thanks for sharing this. I remember this being mentioned by a friend of mine and I forgot all about it. I’d love to be one of the first to try out something this exciting. This definitely changes the whole idea of tinkering with our actual smartphones.

  21. I swear I cannot wait for this to come out. I have been following up Phonebloks and Project Ara since a long time and I really want to build my own phone. For example, I can get some parts for a PC and build it myself the way I want with the configuration I want. I can choose which graphics card it would have and also the processor and even the wattage of the power supply. I can build a PC as I want for my exact purpose and within my budget. I really want this kind of freedom on ARM. For example, if Project Ara launches, I can build a phone with the size I want, with the camera I want, with the storage I want. And, if this is going to support other operating systems (like Ubuntu Touch, Firefox OS, BadaOS, etc.), that’d be even cool. Moreover, these types of phones will be much cheaper and convenient. Most OEM mobile phone manufacturers are building phones with absurdly huge sizes which do not fit in my pocket, with terrible internal storage, with low or no SD card support and with awfully low RAM, besides giving an outdated version of Android. Project Ara will change everything. It will give the end user more freedom. I’m very excited for this. I cannot wait. I want this so much! Why rely on OEM when you can DIY?

  22. I remember when this was Phonebloks – people always spoke about how the design concept was impossible to pull off satisfactorily. It’ll never happen, they said – but now that Google is involved, I have no doubts the project will have a lot of success. And good riddance – getting a new phone is never easy on the pocket.

  23. I already want one just based on how the back of the case looks. Not only will I be able to have a personalized smart phone, it will be one that can run as fast as I choose depending on how much I choose to invest in it. For $50, this is something that is very hard for any tech guy to pass up on.

  24. Now THIS is a project that gets my wheels turning.

    This is a major breakthrough, allowing end users to pay for only what they want or need! Now granted, the average joe may not feel excited about this, but millions of geeks around the world will go crazy for it!

    The last TWO smartphone flagship upgrades I’ve made, barely anything has been new sans the display and cameras. It would be amazing to be able to simply replace those two parts at a decent cost rather than have to replace the entire phone.

    This is especially true for those of us who are accident prone!

    • I’m an average Joe and you are right, I’m not excited about this phone at all. But after reading your post I understand why all the geeks out there will be so happy with this phone! I think it’s a really interesting project, we will see if the execution of this idea is as good as it sounds right now. Time will tell, I guess.

  25. I think this really appeals to the techies. Who like to customize things anyway. For the average user, I’m afraid, they may not want to mess with the different components. I really like the idea of replacing just the part that broke. Seems like today’s phones are created with the “contract length” in mind. So they only hold up about two years as it is. I think it’s called planned obsolescence. They only make money when you’re replacing it. 😉

    • “For the average user, I’m afraid, they may not want to mess with the different components. ”

      I know for a fact when personal computers started appearing, most people wouldn’t venture to even configure a printer or other regular peripheral device due to being afraid of breaking things up. Today, average PC users are more daring in what they can do prior to calling the tech guys.

      One can only think it would be the same for these mobile telephones. Once people see how easy it can be to upgrade your own phone, it can become the new craze (chances are it becomes a long-lasting one among the ones who “get it”).

  26. I am always worried about these ‘budget’ alternatives. They often take a step back in technology and user-interface. Making the whole experience less enjoyable, and a shortly lived one. Time will tell.

  27. I think it’s kind of cool that Google is going to come out with a smartphone. They might end up being as popular as Samsung and Apple. Each company already has computers so having a smartphone will just be a bonus for Google to increase sales. I am excited to see what the outcome will be.

  28. I have heard about this before, but from what I remember it was Phonebloks way back. Last time I heard about this is from Kickstarter. Its great that Google is now working on making this into reality.

    I am sure they will find a way out on pushing this through with using Android, or maybe, they can just develop another software for this. I don’t think Android itself would collapse if another OS from Google would be developed since it has already a big consumer market.

    I hope that the $50 phone itself would be functional enough, since some people just want a phone that would last and parts would be easily replaceable in case they are damaged.

    Still a great idea. 🙂

  29. I think this would be the next big thing for phones, I mean with all the cost and waste of a yearly release of new and updated phones I think people are going to back this idea. I hope it really delivers.

  30. A $50 smart phone is a great idea and I’m surprised no one has made it before now. I think the technology prices are reasonable enough for it to be a reality. Good for google for attempting it. Most everybody has a smart phone these days. A $50 price point will capture the rest of the market…I assume that’s a sizable chunk.

  31. Ara is just what the mobile world needs. Custom built PC’s are amazing in the ability to update them modularly and save a lot of money. If this was present for smartphones as well, levels of customability would skyrocket. Manufacturers could sell modules alongside their flagships, and people could purchase just exactly what they want.

  32. This sounds awesome. Imagine how easy it would be to swap parts for your phone. Then instead of having to buy a new phone everysooften, you could just swap out a new part like you would on a desktop PC. Definitely a technology I want to see in action.

  33. I still haven’t heard much about this phone online or on news outlets. Is it still going to happen early next year? I would have expected to see it around in media.

  34. It January 2015 and I am pretty excited for this one. Hope you update this article for the latest news abut the Project Ara. It would be really cool to have the customize feature be applicabl to the hardware like this as well.

  35. Oh yes, I remember this one. Nice concept, but only a concept, nonetheless. I would personally be impressed if they shelled out a working model by 2017. I’ll buy one on the day it comes out if that happens.

  36. Heh, not sure I actually like this one, a modular phone sounds really fancy indeed, but I don’t think it would be a heavy duty phone… I just don’t like the idea of attaching and detaching things, because I often get that kid of things wrong and that is when things can go south. It sounds like a very fancy phone though, perfect gift for a gadget lover very close to your heart.

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