Google's modular smartphone could launch next year for $50

Credit: Motorola

Believe it or not, but we've reached a point where new smartphones are as exciting as new HDTVs. They all look the same with small improvements over the previous model. While this year is more of the same old, next year could be a breakthrough year that changes how we think of and use our smartphones.

Google may have sold Motorola to Lenovo for $2.9 billion, but its interest in building its own smartphones is still an area of intense focus. One Motorola project that Google is still working on is Project Ara, a modular smartphone. As previously revealed, Project Ara is an ambitious project that could turn the world of smartphones upside down.

Unlike smartphones today that are completely pre-assembled with fixed specifications, the proposed Ara smartphones would have modules that can be removed and attached. Want a camera with faster autofocus and better low-light shooting? Just swap in a new one. That original 2GB of RAM not enough for your new power needs? Pop off the RAM module and put in a bigger one. The possibilities are endless with a modular device. It opens devices up to deep customizations. For instance, a person who never uses their camera on their smartphone, could opt to have a massive battery module instead of an image sensor module.

According to info from a new TIME article, Google is pushing full steam ahead with Project Ara. A working prototype will be revealed in the next few weeks, in time for the company's Ara developer conference in mid April, and a launch is slated for the first quarter of 2015.

Transformative as Project Ara has the potential to be, the smartphone won't be replacing your Nexus or iPhone anytime soon. Project Ara is aimed at getting the next 5 billion people connected to the Internet. As such, Ara will need to be extremely inexpensive. In fact, Google wants to sell the smartphone for $50. To get that low, the Ara will only have Wi-Fi and no cellular connection.

Of course, the modular nature of the design could mean a cellular antenna module could be attached, but we'll have to wait until Google shares more details. Additionally, TIME reports the Ara will come with three screen sizes: "mini (rather basic), medium (mainstream) and jumbo (an oversized, phablet-style variant)". And we're not too excited for the smartphone's thickness: 9.7mm including the modules. Comparatively, the iPhone 5s is 7.6mm and the new Galaxy S5 is 8.1mm.

Like Google Glass, Google will have an uphill battle with Project Ara. Will users flock to it or mock it? We'll have to wait and see how it turns out when the modular smartphone is released next year.


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