[Google I/O 2016]: Project Ara modular phone demoed, will reach consumers next year

“The developer version will be shipped out later this year, while the consumer edition will be available in 2017”

Modular smartphones are touted to be the next big thing in phone innovation. In this regard, Project Ara took the world by storm, ever since its nascent days as Phonebloks. Google I/O 2014 featured a partially complete Project Ara phone, but I/O 2016 gave a glimpse at the real deal: the hallowed Project Ara is now fully functional.

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The project is still in its prototype stages as of now, and the first generation does not allow for swapping out parts such as the CPU, battery or display (the battery is incidentally, a semi-modular component on the LG G5  (first impressions). But the first generation version has six generic modular slots, all interconnected with an advanced ‘Unipro’ network.This enables the modules being connected and disconnected constantly, and helping them charge too.

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Demoed at I/O 2016 was the ability to hot swap the modules, simply by going into settings and ejecting the module. A more intuitive method was also demoed, where a particular module could be ejected by using the OK Google command. All the modules are controlled directly via software, and a button on the side brings up the overview of all the modules.

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The early development partners for the modules include Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, iHealth, E Ink, Toshiba and TDK. Modules that have been teased include the camera modules (wide angle or telephoto lens), e-ink displays and even audio enhancements. There’s still a lot of potential for add-ons in the future, such as sensors, batteries, fitness trackers, and even projectors. 

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Project ARA will be one of Google’s first phones featuring in-house hardware and software. The developer version will be shipped out later this year, while the consumer edition will be available in 2017. Interested developers can login to the official Ara site and fill out a form.

Via 1, Via 2