Google hosted its second Project Ara developer conference at its Mountain View campus today. During the event, company executives revealed quite a bit more about its latest modular smartphone prototype and when we can expect to see a consumer version.
The latest prototype – dubbed Spiral 2 – includes a 3G modem as well as an RF bus to support antennas. We learned last summer that Google was working with Chinese manufacturer Rockchip to build a custom SoC for the device.
As it turns out, that processor isn’t the field-programmable gate array (FPGA) type we’re accustomed to but rather an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) processor – the same kind that are used in advanced cryptocurrency miners.
Google also revealed that they’re abandoning plans to build hardware using 3D printing, instead opting to go with a dye sublimation process. What’s more, the magnets that hold modules to the chassis have been relocated from within the modules to the frame of the phone. This will give developers even more room to cram hardware inside each module.
At present, Google has developed 11 modules for use with Project Ara.
Project director Paul Eremenko said they plan to launch a pilot program later this year in Puerto Rico. The pilot will give the team valuable feedback regarding what works, what doesn’t work and what is missing so they’ll be able to better develop the next iteration before a full-scale rollout.
The next iteration – Spiral 3 – will focus on bringing the hardware up to speed compared to today’s top smartphones. It’ll obviously need to have 4G LTE capabilities, good battery life and a quality camera, among other things. A consumer version should follow shortly after.