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Project Ara- Google’s Modular Phone to Be Available In 2017

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Ara is a whole new concept that is expected to redefine the smartphones with a new age of modular phone. This modular smartphone concept was originally envisioned by Dave Hakkens , with the aim to have a better idea to fix a phone’s broken camera, than to discard the phone and thus reducing the e-waste. The much awaited smartphone concept which was expected to be available by the first quarter of 2016 has be delayed and will be available in 2017 only. Technology website The Verge reported on Friday.

The Project Ara was initiated by Phonebloks in 2012. Towards the end of 2013 Phoneblok started gaining supporters from all over the world through Twitter and Facebook.

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Soon they joined hands with Motorola. Motorola made the first mobile phone and have a 40+ years of experience in developing them. They named it “Project Ara” after the name of their lead mechanical designer.

When Google sold Motorola to Lenovo in 2014, Google made sure that it kept project Ara to its Google Advanced Technology and Project Group. Till then it was operating under Motorola Advanced Technology and Project Group.

Ara allows users to build a smartphone that works exactly how they want. One can buy the exoskeleton for a fixed price, and buy the modules according to ones need from their store which will look like the Google play store. This will also help to drive down the hardware pricing. From a verity of module, one can select and customize their phones as per requirement.

These modules connect to the main frame through electro-permanent magnets. When the magnets are hit with an “On” electrical pulse they will create a solid bond between the Endo and module. When they are hit with an “Off” pulse, the magnets will release the bond and you can replace the module.  The magnets don’t need a constant charge to keep a bond.

These modules will be developed by numerous developers using the open source MDK. Project Ara team plans to achieve this is through an Ara Module Developer’s Kit (MDK).

It will give developers and manufacturers a way to work within a set of guidelines and technical specifications to build Ara modules to fit into the Project Ara smartphone. Cameras, antennas, batteries, processors, and anything that can be fit into a module shell will be available.

The back covers for modules can also be customized according to the user requirements, with the help of 3D printings. 3D systems will also be involved in making the Ara a great success. Sennheiser will be developing specialized audio modules and Toshiba has already come up with first camera modules for the smartphone.

Since it is a Google Product it will be operating on Android and hence Google is making slight changes in its latest android Operating systems to make it compatible with Ara.

Project Ara was supposed to launch a pilot programme in Puerto Rico. This was scheduled for 2015 but got moved back to 2016, due to some technical issues. There will be an initial test market in a few US locations.

Spiral 2 is the latest prototype of Project Ara. Specifications for the Spiral 2 include a 1280 x 720 display, light and proximity sensors, 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, 3G modem with a Band 2 antenna, separate Band 5 antenna, battery, speaker module, and a Marvell PXA1928 or NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor block. The team has also developed 11 Modules for Ara one of them being pollution sensor.

Spiral 3 will be more advanced than spiral 2 with feature such as inductive data connection on the phone so modules and the endo can communicate with no actual contact. Spiral 3 will also support 4G/LTE.

There have been many technical and social barriers to this project. One of them being Potential increase of e-waste. Critics have argued that this will increase the e-waste, since there will be new and improved components every month and hence frequent replacement will increase the e-waste.


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