Google is a US company providing Internet-related products and services, including internet search, cloud computing, and software and advertising technologies. Founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin with an unofficial slogan of “Don’t be evil”, the company has established itself in the mobile sector through its widely used Android operating system, and has a major presence in the smartphone market.
Google to introduce US$50 smartphone that users can customise
Project Ara ’Grey Phone’ will be a frame, screen, Wi-Fi connection and processor - ready for users to customise
Google’s ambitious modular smartphone concept, an attempt to disrupt the market dominated by Apple and Samsung, could be available in January 2015 for as little as $50.
Paul Eremenko, Google’s Project Ara head, told attendees of its developer conference that the modular device is scheduled to go on sale in January next year and will be essentially just a frame, screen, Wi-Fi connection and processor - ready for users to customise with different plug-in modules, colours and accessories.
“It’s called the Grey Phone because it’s meant to be drab grey to get people to customise it,” said Eremenko.
Project Ara is Google’s attempt to make a mobile device where the major components, including the camera, speakers, GPS and other common features of modern smartphones, can be swapped out for new ones, mixing and matching modules to customise the phone to do what the user needs it to do.
At the developer conference, the Ara team fleshed out their vision and a timeframe for development for the modular device, attempting to attract developers for both hardware and software to jump on-board the project.
The core frame of the Grey phone will be built to last around five to six years, according to Eremenko, allowing users to upgrade their phones steadily, buying cheap individual components like a better camera, improved Bluetooth or new 4G radio from an app store-like shop.
But the basic framework and modular nature of Ara could be used to build any number of devices, far beyond a simple smartphone and wouldn’t require a mobile phone radio or Wi-Fi module, for instance.
“’What is a phone’ can be challenged when you can pick and choose pieces on our platform,” explained David Fishman, an Ara team manager. “It would still be able to run an operating system and do what you’d want to do without a connection."
“If it can be other things, we encourage that,” said Eremenko but added that Google intends Ara to be “ultimately a great smartphone first and foremost” allowing “developers to explore different branches” of technology.
“We want to be as helpful but as hands-off as possible for the development of the ecosystem,” Eremenko concluded, meaning that the more advanced technical features of modules will be left up to third-party hardware developers to create once the central frame of the Grey Phone is ready.
Project Ara came as a result of Google’s purchase of Motorola and its Advanced Technology and Projects group, which was retained while other parts of Motorola’s business was sold off to Lenovo and others.
The ambitious project could revolutionise the way smartphones are built and sold, providing a more renewable framework that would do away with the constant need to buy a completely new phone, and instead upgrade it through individual modules.