Google looks to sell Project Ara modular smartphones for $50

By on February 27, 2014, 8:30 AM
google, mobile, smartphone, modular, project ara

Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group is still hard at work on Project Ara, a modular smartphone that would allow users to swap out and replace certain parts at will. The company is hoping that entry-level Project Ara devices will be available for as low as $50, giving a wide range of people access to the futuristic technology.

The entry-level handsets have been labeled as "grayphones" by its engineers, and will be extremely bare-bones. If all goes to plan, you'll eventually be able to purchase a grayphone - equipped with little more than a touchscreen, Wi-Fi and enough power to run them - at a local convenience store. From there, an app will guide you through the process of customization and buying new modules for the unit.

If you want the full Project Ara treatment you'll also eventually be able to head to a specialized kiosk, where technology and staff will assist you through the process of buying a grayphone and building a smartphone. Unfortunately the team behind Project Ara hasn't quite figured out how to get the cost of a grayphone down to $50, but it's all still a work in progress.

ATAP and Project Ara were originally under the control of Motorola, a subsidiary of Google until recently when it was sold to Lenovo for $2.91 billion. However Google decided to keep ATAP, lead by former director of DARPA Regina Dugan, to push along smartphone hardware innovation.

It may still be a while before we see a working prototype of Project Ara, and it doesn't look like it will hit the market until 2015 at the earliest, but the future is looking rather interesting.

User Comments: 5

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p51d007 said:

Nice idea for people like me that like to tinker with electronics (electronics degree, ham radio operator), but would the general public, "upgrade" their camera, processor, etc? Heck, just walking around any electronics area of big box stores, I'm surprised most people can tie their own shoes.

mikeusru said:

Best thing about this is the prospect of upgrading phone internals without having to replace the screen, since the capacitive touchscreen seems to be one of the most costly parts. Hopefully they'll also make different sized enclosures to fit different-sized screens.

MilwaukeeMike said:

$50?! Am I missing something here? Compare this to the PC builder market. The market for PC builders is the enthusiast market. They spend as much on a video card as regular consumers do on their whole computer. How are they going to market an enthusiast-level product with bare-bones tech? The whole point of building your PC is getting one that fits your needs exactly, and it's almost always better off in some areas than what you could buy pre-made. I can't imagine the fun of building your own phone is going to trump the fact that it's going to be a piece of junk next to the Galaxy S whatever from two years ago.

Yeah, I know... it's only the first step, and maybe it'll improve over time. But c'mon... who's going to buy this thing?

Guest said:

Mike - the way I see it is $50 will get you a very basic barebones phone. Look at it as a case and fans. Enthusiasts will probablystill b able to blow an additional $200 on a quad core processor, $400 on a larger screen and $200 on an f1.4 camera.

rub900 said:

Still.. very cool idea

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