Project Ara, arguably the most daring smartphone project of Google yet, is finally set to be revealed soon, with the tech giant announcing that it would be shipping the first iteration of the modular smartphone to developers by the end of 2016. This means that soon, consumers will be able to try out Project Ara's novel approach to mobile computing.
The announcement, made during the Advanced Technologies and Products (ATAP) session of Google I/O 2016 last week, was received with thunderous applause from the audience in attendance. Using one of the Ara prototypes, Rafa Camargo, the lead engineer on Project Ara, simply placed the modular smartphone on a table and instructed the device to eject the camera.
The camera module at the back of the device promptly disengaged from the smartphone's frame.
The progress and development of Project Ara have not been revealed by Google lately. After a series of public demonstrations which did not really work very well, the tech giant has been pretty silent about its modular smartphone project. In fact, Google's silence was so prominent that some began to speculate that Project Ara had been discontinued.
As it turned out, work the modular smartphone was steadily progressing, and now, it is ready to ship to developers by the end of the year.
The Project Ara phone that Google would be releasing would not be the exact same handset that the tech giant originally planned, however. In Ara's original design, even the chipset, display and the main battery are interchangeable. In its current iteration, the basics of the phone are already integrated into the frame. The frame would carry six slots for modules at the back, the contents of which would depend on the device's users.
Thus, even if Project Ara would not really be as future-proof as its original design, the sheer capability of the modular smartphone to be customizable depending on users' preference is already a huge draw. Indeed, once Project Ara formally launches to the consumer market, it would truly be a device that is one-of-a-kind.
Among the modules that Google has shown so far are additional battery components, which are speculated to add about 45 percent of battery life for each module added, a camera, a series of powerful speakers, an e-ink display for the back and an expanded memory module. There's even a glucometer module, for users with diabetes.
Though it has taken quite some time before the device is finally ready, Camargo believes that Ara has what it takes to make a real difference to the smartphone world.
"We really have to bring it to consumers, we have to make it attractive, we have to make them understand it," he said.
Considering what the device offers, Project Ara might very well be the game-changer it was always meant to be.