Google rallies to sell developers on Project Ara

But Google's modular smartphone architecture is at best a long shot, according to an analyst

Early designs for Project Ara

Early designs for Project Ara

Google is pushing to realize its vision of modular smartphones with a conference this week that will give developers a closer look at its Project Ara.

Modular smartphones would allow users to upgrade aspects of the device such as the camera or processor, instead of buying a new device every two or three years. Google showed its commitment to that idea when it sold Motorola Mobility to Lenovo but held on to the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group that works on Project Ara.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Project Ara developer conference will get underway at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, with some of the proceedings also available online. The main goals are to show the value of the Ara platform and get developer feedback on the MDK (module developers kit) released last week.

On Tuesday, participants will get a detailed walk-through of the MDK, Ara's industrial and mechanical design, as well as the power system, network stack and software. Google also plans to spend 15 minutes explaining its licensing plans at the end of the day.

The modules are the basic building block of the Ara architecture, and they are attached to what Google calls an endoskeleton using electro-permanent magnets.

The skeleton functions as the frame and backplane of the device, determining the size and layout of the phone. The MDK details three sizes: mini, medium and large, with different module configurations for each. They are roughly 100, 120 and 140 millimeters long and 40, 60 and 80 millimeters wide.

The modules communicate via the skeleton using MIPI UniPort-M, a technology designed for chip-to-chip communication on mobile devices. Jürgen Urban, who chairs the UniPro Working Group at MIPI Alliance, will give the network stack presentation on Tuesday, he said.

"I will be talking about the basic principles, how things work and why our technology is a good choice for modular phones," Urban said.

UniPort-M and its UniPro transport layer are a good fit for Ara because the modules can communicate with each other using point-to-point connections over one shared physical channel, which saves space. The technology is also very scalable, according to Urban.

On Wednesday, participants can choose between developer inspiration, demos and MDK input and feedback tracks. The developer inspiration track offers sessions on medical devices, 3D printing and RF modules, for example.

While modular smartphones are interesting in theory, in the real world, they stand little chance of success, according to Francisco Jeronimo, research director for European mobile devices at IDC.

"It is a very long shot, because most vendors want to differentiate by designing and deciding what components to have in their handsets," Jeronimo said.

Also, letting users choose between different combinations of components would make the testing vendors do to ensure they all work well together much more difficult, he said.

The developer conference is the first in a series of three events planned for this year, and Google also intends to put out a series of alpha and beta MDK releases, according to the Ara website.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags smartphonesGoogleconsumer electronics

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?