Project Ara

Three sizes of phones with various layouts will give several device style options, module configurations.

With its first developer conference on the horizon, Google has just released the first public version of the Module Developers Kit (MDK) for Project Ara. While things are still very early, the MDK gives us our first in-depth look at how Google is leading third parties into creating Project Ara devices and modules, and how everything will fit together.

The main point of the MDK at this stage is to make third-party manufacturers aware of the guidelines that will soon apply to them for making Project Ara pieces. From what's shown now, we know there will be three sizes of phones — Mini, Medium and Large — with Large being released at a later date. Each size will start with a basic "skeleton" that will then accept components to build a phone, primarily sourced from third parties. There will be different device layouts available within each size category, each giving you room for specific components.

Basic phone components such as Wifi modules, batteries, displays and speakers naturally have specific restrictions on their size and design as to make them all work together, and manufacturers will be required to follow them. Google even goes in-depth into how camera modules, for example, will be a specific size and use certain shapes. The early MDK includes reference designs and CAD files to get manufacturers started with basic modules as well.

Google is apparently targeting early 2015 for actual Project Ara devices and components to go on sale, with an online "Module Marketplace" for these third-party parts giving you options to configure your own device right from the start. While we're keeping in mind that this is a version 0.10 release of the MDK, the specifics shown here give us a lot of hope for the launch of Project Ara and truly modular phones.

Source: Project Ara


Reader comments

Google shares details on Project Ara third-party modules and designs with initial MDK release


I am super excited that Ara is becoming more and more a reality.
The 2x5 layout seems a very odd size for a smart phone.

Me too! Can't wait to be able to build our own super phones like desktop pcs! Years down the road, of course, but at least it has started!

It may seem odd at the first sight, but it's a size that's been missing from market for quite a long time.
I think that it would be a perfect size for tablet companion phone.

I agree, that should be more like 3x5, unless it would have one of those cinematic ultra-wide screens.

With all the core apps being pulled out of Android and moved to the play store, Google could probably circumvent the carriers by having the carries build their own modules. Then the carrier only needs to update their module as they see fit.

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I'm hoping I'll be able to take it to Verizon, but I won't hold my breath.

"How'd you get the beans above the frank?"

True, but it would have to be the bands that Verizon runs on.

"How'd you get the beans above the frank?"

If only it were that simple. Verizon won't let just any CDMA modem on their network. It has to be specifically approved by them and, supposedly, their CDMA has some proprietary thing that they won't share with anyone who is not working directly with them on the device. So, it's have to be a Verizon approved module, likely only sold directly by Verizon.

Perhaps CDMA won't even be an issue for these, as I think Verizon is moving to voice-over-LTE anyways. I think their LTE is proprietary too though. :-(

It's called the not and it is a beast

You really should see the crap I don't post. Sorry if honesty offends you

You say that like it is a bad thing

You really should see the crap I don't post. Sorry if honesty offends you

This is a geek's dream.
But then again, how many geeks are there in the world compared to regular non-tech people?
Not many.
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But this is a foundation to build on, like the first computers. 10 years down the road it will be normal to switch out components.

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
--Arthur Schopenhauer

I am excited for this. Seems like a brilliant solution. Being able to pull components off your larger work phone and loading what's needed onto a smaller device for an evening out or working out would be a great option. And somewhat economical. Sign me up please.

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You know it is a pretty cool idea and I was pretty excited for this project in the past but after having my M8 I can't get over the build quality.

These ara phones are going to have a lot of gaps, a lot of dirt and dust collection points, squeaky and creaky chasis and just an overall modular feel. As in everything feels like it's suppose to come apart. It's just a inherit design flaw.

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HTC One owners seem more, and more superficial every comment they make! Might as well just get an Iphone if all you ever want to talk about is looks & design, instead of actual features and function!

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Actually, I'm an architect (y'know, I get paid to design). Design isn't a "feature", not one that overcomes functional inadequacies.

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Sounds like you're bad at your job.

Design is must certainly a feature.. you don't want to put form over function for sure, but any idiot can design a perfectly functional rectangle.. it's when you start making something more that it gets interesting.

Really Jay? Build quality isn't important to you? You may think I'm "superficial" because I like a solid build but I think your a sheep who buys what everyone else tells you to. And I didn't e en say anything about looks, my concerns are over how all those gaps will effect the fit, finish, and FUNCTIONALITY of the phone.
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There is a difference in "build" quality VS "material" quality. Material quality (which is what we're really talking about when we start talking about a device being metal) is also *extremely* subjective, just like the visual design aesthetics.

Build quality (a device creaking or having rough edges) is less subjective, but can have varying levels of importance for different users.

These Project Ara phones will likely be quite "utilitarian", but I doubt it will be anything a decent case can't fix.

That said, ignore Jay Holm. He *loves* to get everyone riled up.

I'm not talking about the device being metal. I'm talking about minimal gaps, less creaking, tighter gaps, actually build quality stuff. A modular design introduces more gaps that are also larger. I also doubt the stability of the frame and that it will have flex meaning more creaking.

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As a follow up though, I think this phone actually looks pretty cool with the component blocks and metal in between. I wouldn't want a case as long as it was reasonably sturdy still.

You do realize there are different styles of design too right? Personally I think the iPhone is ugly.

And as a few have said, design is a feature. Honestly would you rather drive a Ferrari (or whatever exotic car you prefer) with a Honda engine in it, or a beat up old wagon with a great engine?

Personally I'd take the first, but in many cases, there's no need for a compromise. If I can have a phone with great specs that also looks like it was worth the money, why the heck would I choose cheap plastic?

I don't think so.
Majority of people are too busy with their lives to deal with figuring out and ordering parts for their phones. Not to mention customer service, warranty etc.

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I like the idea of being able to take the important modules from your regular sized Ara phone and put them in the smaller shell when you want something smaller to carry. I'm still not sold on it, but the concept is intriguing.

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I hope that there is a phablet size of so goodbye note 3 I'll never met the note 4 but I will miss the s pen

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I bet I could fit a dpad and button module into that middle one. That 2x5 one would look like an iphone probably. Or probably iPhone 6 I should say. They keep getting taller but not much wider.

They all have different numbers of modules. I wonder what each one is giving up for a smaller size?? Hmmmmm....

Could this be the reason the rumor that Google is going to stop the Nexus line exists?
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This idea is pretty cool. But I wonder which manufacturers will hop onto this concept?
I couldn't see current big-name manufacturers jump onto this mainly cause then it would make consumers hold onto their Ara phone longer and simply just switch out for the latest module.

True. But it could mean that the modules were easier to manufacture, so they could get to the market faster, and cheaper, so people would be more likely to upgrade more often.