Project Ara, Google’s modular smartphone concept, is slowly but surely inching its way closer to becoming a consumer product. On Friday, project lead Rafa Camargo revealed a huge milestone in that developer kits will be shipping later this year. Best yet, a consumer version will be available sometime in 2017.
The revelation came as part of an exclusive interview with Wired. In it, we learn that the developer edition shipping later this year will feature a 5.3-inch display and is described as a fairly high-end handset.
The six module slots on the back of the phone utilize an open standard called UniPro, each of which can push up to 11.9 gigabits of data per second and consumes just a third as much power as USB 3. On the prototype, pressing a button on the side of the phone brings up a menu showing all of the installed modules. To release one, just tap the screen and a moment later, it’ll free itself from the back of the phone.
Or, as Camargo does, you can just say, “OK Google, eject the camera.”
The Project Ara team decided to handle this aspect of the device with software as it prevents mechanical accidents or failure. Users will even be able to password-protect modules carrying sensitive data.
To add a new module to the phone, just pop it into place.
As for what sort of modules developers will build, there’s no shortage of ideas. Things like flashlights, better speakers, fitness trackers, projectors, app-shortcut buttons, kickstands and even a panic button are a few of the many potential ideas we may one day see. It’ll really be up to developers and largely, the market’s reception to Project Ara as a whole.