Project Ara: Reinventing the smartphone with building blocks

Project Ara is the codename for an initiative that aims to develop an open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. The platform will include a structural frame or endoskeleton that holds smartphone modules of the owner's choice, such as a display, camera or an extra battery.

It would allow users to swap out malfunctioning modules or upgrade individual modules as innovations emerge, providing longer lifetime cycles for the handset, and potentially reducing electronic waste. Project Ara smartphone is scheduled to begin pilot testing in the United States in 2016 with a target bill of materials cost of $50 for a basic grey phone.

The project was originally headed by the Advanced Technology and Projects team within Motorola Mobility while it was a subsidiary of Google. Although Google has since divested Motorola to Lenovo, it retained the Advanced Technology and Projects group—which has since worked under the direction of the Android division.

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THE VERGE - Project Ara, a smartphone you can customize, may seem like a crazy idea, but it's not half as crazy as what it takes to build it. Google's ATAP group, led by Paul Eremenko, takes the DARPA philosophy and applies it to building phones. Eremenko wants five billion customers, but before he gets there, he has to convince developers to create the hardware.

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