Google’s Project Ara Imagines a Modular Smartphone

BreakingModern — Can the introduction of a new type of cell phone change our lives? Well, Apple did it when they brought out the first iPhone and App store in 2007. Now Google hopes to make as big an impact with another wildly innovative smartphone — Project Ara. Google’s Project Ara is a development effort to create an entirely new modular hardware ecosystem for smartphones.


How would you like to purchase a phone with just the components that you need? How would you like to upgrade just the camera in your phone? Or would you like to slide in a screen replacement when your screen breaks, instead of purchasing an entirely new phone?

The modular smartphone of Project Ara aims to accomplish all of that — it would allow you to purchase hardware components just like you now purchase apps in a software store. You could buy only the modules that you need or want, and they would pop or slide together, somewhat like a set of LEGOs. These modules could be safely and easily inserted and removed at any time, even while the device is powered on. Through the Ara Module Marketplace you could configure a smartphone from scratch, or buy additional modules as you need them.

Advanced Technology and Project

Project Ara is a part of the Advanced Technology and Project (ATAP) group that Google acquired when they purchased Motorola in 2011. When Google sold Motorola to Lenovo in 2014, they retained ATAP. ATAP is a counterpart to Google X, but while Google X focuses on broad projects like the self-driving car and Google Glass, ATAP is focused on mobile technologies. Headed by Regina Dugan, the former director of the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), ATAP is moving quickly.

It’s said that Larry Page, Google’s CEO, uses the toothbrush test to assess a company or project: “Is this something you will use once or twice a day and does it make your life better?” Creating a smartphone that you don’t have to throw away every few years certainly fits those criteria.”

Project Ara has 20 partners and 150 team members spread across three continents, and it’s moving quickly to deliver a marketable product which they hope to have available in 2015. Project Ara has already hosted several development conferences and has Module Developers Kits (MDKs) available at You can see their progress in this video.

Video: Project Ara Phone is Finally Released, Spiral 2 Prototype

There is no doubt that current cell service providers are closely monitoring the progress of Project Ara. When questioned about Ara, Debi Lewis, a Verizon Wireless corporate communications official said, “We work with a wide variety of device manufacturers, and our goal is to provide customers with the kinds of smartphones and other wireless devices they want and that fit their needs.”

While Project Ara seems like an impossible dream, the progress made so far indicates that it may be successful. If success is achieved, it is sure to be welcomed by consumers and hopefully by cellular service providers as well.

For BMod, I’m .

All screenshots: Sandy Berger courtesy of Project Ara Twitter

Featured/Header image credit: Project Ara Spiral 2 Prototype” by Maurizio Pesce via Flickr Creative Commons

Sandy Berger

Author: Sandy Berger

Based in Pinehurst, North Carolina, Sandy Berger is a veteran tech journalist and reviews editor at covering tech tips and tricks, apps, gadgets, and consumer electronics. Follow @sandyberger on Twitter, +SandyBerger on Google+, and on Facebook.

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