This week Google has announced the launch of Project Ara, a design first aimed at giving mobile phone users more control over the look, feel and capability of their handset. At the moment the trial run is taking place solely in Puerto Rico, where the much anticipated device will be revealed in around two weeks.
Described on their web site as a ‘modular hardware ecosystem’, the manufacturers hope their creation will eventually bring internet capabilities to 5 billion more people. The idea is to put the power of choice into consumers hands, the phone you take out each morning will be ideal for your individual needs and the issues you’ll be tackling on that day. The cover, the colour and the functions will all be interchangeable, depending on what suits your environment.
Need a higher resolution camera? No problem. With the Ara you can simply unplug your every day photography tool and slot in an alternative that delivers greater pixels per inch. You’ll also have a gizmo to increase your mobile phones battery life, one to boost its processing speed and another to add memory.
The Ara is designed to become whatever its owner needs, beginning with a basic frame that includes the general usage data. What happens next is down to the user, modules are treated like Lego blocks, they can be added or removed whenever is convenient – even while the phone is switched on. Each possible component is complimented by a colourful shell, enabling a phone to represent the personal style of its user. When the Ara goes into general circulation consumers will have various buying choices, they can get the complete Ara unit outright, or put their own version of the phone together by purchasing individual add on modules.
As well as providing mobile phone customers with an innovative product that changes according to their needs, Google hope the Ara will be highly future compatible. To remain current, modules will be upgraded to more advanced alternatives as the technology becomes available. At a conference called to launch their latest gadget, Google executives were quick to point out that the Ara was at a fledgling stage. The project is being managed by Paul Eremenko, who explained: “Ara is full of choices. We have to carefully curate and manage the experience. We have a variety of hypothesis, but we need to test them in the field.”
To spread the word and encourage more sales, Google have customised a truck that will transport the Project Ara merchandise and their sales team around Puerto Rico. When the show hits the road there will be 20 to 30 modules on offer, as well as the basic handset which will cost a very reasonable $50. This generic exoskeleton is known as the ‘grey phone’; the structure onto which each function and customisation is added.
In order to support the Ara, an app is being launched alongside the handset. The Ara Configurator enables you to see your new phone before and after you buy it, and when you need to add or remove modules. The purpose of this app is twofold, firstly, it enhances the user experience for people who have already invested in the product, and secondly it draws in potential customers by helping them envisage the possibilities of an Ara.