Project Ara still on track for early 2015 release, will run on modified Android L version


Project Ara prototype

It might still sound like science fiction, but it seems Project Ara is still on course for an early 2015 release. In a blog post posted earlier today, Phonebloks talks about how the Google ATAP team is gearing up to unveil the first fully functional Ara prototype smartphone — along with the release of a new Project Ara MDK — during their 2nd developers conference in December.

What’s more is because Android isn’t designed to support dynamic hardware configurations, Project Ara is teaming up with Linaro to have the device run on a modified version of Android L, Google’s next major Android release expected to launch later this year (October is the date being whispered around the web). The modified Android version will allow for users to quickly and easily hot swap most of the Ara modules — with the exception of the CPU and display — without having to first power down the device. This includes camera modules, battery modules, and more.

Project Ara Linaro Android L software

With partners like Toshiba, Foxconn, and more, all the modules will be sold in an online store or “Modular Marketplace” similar to the Google Play Store, and will need to be certified before being available to consumers.

We expect to learn much more during the devcon where we expect to see various modules and features never before seen on a smartphone. Pretty exciting stuff! If you’re curious to learn more, you can check out Project Ara lead Paul Eremenko’s talk during this year’s Linaro Connect USA 2014 event (starts at the 44:10 mark).

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. Two words… Day-to-daaay-yaaaaam

  2. Impossible to swap out the RAM as well considering it is what is letting the device stay on. There might be a smaller batter in the core of the unit so you can swap the larger battery in and out as need be tho. Being able to swap in a microsd slot as needed and full blown USB port as well would be great.

    1. do you swap out the RAM on your desktop while it’s powered up? no. same applies here. it will most likely require a power down for ALL swaps. I dont expect to see any hot swapping here

      1. Did you read the article?

        “The modified Android version will allow for users to quickly and easily hot swap most of the Ara modules — with the exception of the CPU and display — without having to first power down the device. “

        1. Covert and Monti are right: proper ram (not flash storage) will NOT be hot swappable.

          It is probably left off the exclusion list because these days ram is tightly integrated with the CPU. The CPU module will almost certain contain the ram.

          Another module might contain the flash.

      2. Yeah, I think he was just randomly commenting on things that can and can’t be hot-swapped – i don’t think he meant it as a criticism.

    2. I don’t know about a smaller batter in the frame, but it will be easy to add a small 1×1 battery module along with your main 2×2 battery module, making hotswapping to another 2×2 battery modules convenient.

  3. Question based on total tech ignorance, but is there anything that would warrant this phone not being able to have components compatible with a Verizon network? I don’t really have much of the technical knowledge of the difference between GSM and CDMA and am wondering if there is anything inherent in the modular design that would make it unable to function on that kind of network.

    1. Should be able to swap the radio out easily and heck there may be a world radio you can swap in to handle gsm+cdma+lte as well.

      1. Look forward to the day when CDMA is phased out.

        1. Gonna be a long time, look at Verizon their 1x, and 3G is all CDMA. Full LTE is probably 10+ years away.

      2. It seems to me that verizon could forbid this if they wanted to.

    2. Verizon could also decide not to support having such a device on their network. Just look at how well they handled the Nexus line.

    3. From a technical perspective, no. It would be absolutely possible for verizon or a 3rd party to develop a verizon compatible module.

      We can also ask: “Can Verizon forbid people from developing and using a verizon-compatible module”, and yes I think they could, if they wanted to be jerks about it.

  4. Words cannot describe..

  5. Won’t be cool until apple does it

  6. Haha apple who.

  7. Modular phone system is a challenging initiative. There is no question about it. But if we go through the comments made in this video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0He3Jr-fZh0 ) we can understand that many people are willing to get brand new smartphone than replacing the parts. So, it will be question whether Project Ara will become popular even if Google is able to overcome the technical challenges.

  8. If project Ara becomes successful it will be a huge threat for today’s top smartphone manufacturers. They have to work on its design tho.

    1. Yes, if its super successful that’s true.

      If its just ‘adequately successful’ then it might not be a huge threat.

      Some of those phone manufacturers will probably end up making modules for Ara.

  9. Won’t be buying a new phone until Q1 2015 – this has a massive amount of promise

    1. I’m also holding back to see where this goes. I might have to buy a new phone regardless, but I’m going to get a cheaper one and replace it with an Ara phone!

  10. Fun project phone but don’t see this going mainstream.

  11. so if Android M supports dynamic HW configuration, that could mean easy updates for every phone out there and the INSTANT option to run AOSP without the need for someone to cook it specifically / bug free for your specific device. that would be the holy grail of Android IMHO. It would essentially make it like Windows PC. Endless configurations but everyone is capable of running the latest version the DAY it comes out because it works well with Dynamic configurations.

    1. Wishful thinking, I guess you missed the “custom version of Android L” part, so that Dyanic Hardware code will probably only be in the repo for Ara, not the entire Android L repo.

      1. I believe that’s why he referenced Android M, with the idea that it Ara takes off, the customized parts would be merged into the base of a future release of Android.

        However, the reason Windows works that way is that it comes with ton of legacy drivers built in. I’m not sure that’s going to fly for a phone OS>

        1. That’d be awesome if it happens that way, but I doubt it. Windows SxS does take up like 15 GB but Linux operates differently since most distros already include tons of hardware support and are only a few gigs installed. If this were the case the system partition would definitely have to be larger, which hopefully would mean that they would make 32 GB the base storage size, but once again, wishful thinking!

  12. Early 2015 seems a bit like wishful thinking considering that just a few months ago they couldn’t really turn the thing on. I guess early 2015 could mean all the way up to June right? If you consider the first half of the year to be early. Cautiously optimistic to see what they come up with.

    1. Look at the Project Ara (projectara.com) page it has a good looking shot of the current base and modules, don’t know how accurate or representative they are but looking good thus far.

      1. Looks cool. Not sure if for mockup purposes or actual working parts.

  13. Oh, I hope they make an eink screen module for these!

    I’m very excited to be able to hot-swap batteries, to have only one excellent camera to share among all my devices (vs over paying for a handful of mediocre cameras), the ability to switch networks by swapping out a module, the ability to switch some components to cheaper versions when going camping or travelling, etc.

    This is going to be great!

  14. JUST WANT A FREAKING price tag damn it.

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