Mar 3rd, 2014

As we barrel toward a hopeful 2015 launch of Google’s Project Ara, we’re starting to itch for more than just photos and loose talk about the project. Thankfully, Google is getting a bit more comfortable with the details and is starting to bring this thing from within their super-secret Google X labs over in Mountain View.

Project Ara was presented at the LAUNCH startup conference last week, with one Googler giving us a hands-on look at an early prototype. In the clip — from the 6 minute mark through to the 29 minute mark in the video above — we’re given a look at the metallic frame that will hold all of the modules that will be available.

We’ve learned some very interesting details from the video, such as which modules can go where, who can make the modules, and customization opportunities. Here are just a few of the key highlights:

  • Any module can be made for any position and any size. This means you can use two big batteries, or one small and one big battery, or 4 small batteries if you so choose. This is true for each and every component that will be compatible with Ara.
  • Ara is free for manufacturers to develop for, so the barrier of entry is nonexistent. Google will certify modules to make sure they meet the standard, but just as app developers who don’t meet the terms of conditions are free to distribute outside the Google Play Store, manufacturers are free to sell directly to consumers.
  • Each module can come with a plastic capsule, enabling customization and giving your Ara phone a unique look and feel. Case manufacturers would be able to sell kits with nothing but the plastic caps.
  • For the previously reported price of $50, each starter kit will come with the Ara frame, a display, the OS, a battery module, a low-performance application processor and a WiFi module.
  • There will be a front-facing slot beneath the display area for front-facing speakers or whatever module you want.
  • There will be three different frame sizes at launch — mini, regular and phablet-sized.
  • Google says the possibilities for mixing and matching, or daisy-chaining, frames and modules is theoretically limitless (one example was potentially using multiple display modules to make a tablet), but they want to focus on making a great phone experience for the initial launch.

It was a very interesting interview that I suggest all Project Ara enthusiasts watch. It won’t be long before developers and manufacturers are let in on some low-level details about how all of this will work, as Google has scheduled the first Ara developers’ conference for April.

It’s an online only affair, but it means they’re deep into development and on pace to bring a consumer-ready product by the time their 2015 launch window rolls around. We’re pretty excited, in case you can’t tell. Let us know if you share that same sentiment in the comments below!

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