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Phonebloks Posts Brief Video of Project Ara’s History

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Project Ara may be getting a lot of buzz, but what is it, exactly? To help answer that question, Phonebloks, the Kickstarter project that teamed up with Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP) to develop Ara (was formerly with Motorola), released a YouTube video that covers a brief history of project’s development, interviews some of its key players, and dives into what we can expect in the near future.

The video’s a bit cheesy, but worth a watch if only for the awesome-looking Ara prototypes. If the Alpha Module shown at the Ara Development Conference looks as good as some of the mock-ups shown and the base price is $50, April will be one exciting month.

  • trwb

    Do those glasses even have lenses in them?

    • ERIFNOMI

      Yes.

    • michael arazan

      Do the glasses come with the phone? : P

  • JasonWhite

    This is so cool.

  • Chewy789

    Imagine having an unlocked bootloader block.

  • EliteX

    Great job Motorola!!! Oops I mean…. Lenovo. Oops again

    • JPfingsten

      It’s Google….

  • tomn1ce

    I hope they don’t cut a lot of corner on trying to hit that $50 price point. I prefer to pay a lil more for something that’s going to work well then to pay less for something that won’t work that well.

    • Dominic Powell

      that $50 price point is probably as stated, for the endoskeleton, a cheap CPU variant (think mediatek or snapdragon s4) a wifi module, and a small battery.

      • needa

        i dont think the cpu is part of it. just screen, wifi, and frame.

        • Dominic Powell

          They said they are looking to create a functional module at that price point. That would require a CPU of some sort

          • needa

            yet everything points to screen, wifi, and frame. including this article. think of it this way… a decent 720p screen is fifty on its own. 75 to 85 for 1080p. then add in the buck or two for wifi, the frame, and you also want to add in a ten to fifteen dollar cheap processor and a ten to fifteen dollar gpu? along with the rest of the soc module? i dont see it happening.

  • mcdonsco

    My only concern is how truly customizable can you get? For instance, for some a 2200mah battery is plenty, for others 3400 is a minimum they would want (me!). Would you be able to swap those into the same spot on the phone? Doubt it.

    Same with camera, some may figure camera quality is least of their concern, while others consider it a top priority, could crappy camera modules be swapped for kick ass camera modules into the same spot?

    This is where I think Ara will have some serious engineering challenges to overcome.

    But I hope they are successful at figuring it out as I would love to no longer have to sacrifice one “requirement” of mine to get another which is the current state of phones…if Ara resolves that I would be really impressed.

    Additionally, if they can bring software into the mix on it, THAT would be awesome. Like nexus’ on steroids.

    One last thing, if they can truly pull this off, aesthetically pleasing, high end materials and hardware etc it would put a serious dent in apples arguments on innovation.

    • needa

      i think that is the point of the whole thing – to be able to swap out for better as they are built by oems. i also tend to think that you will be able to have lets say a 2200 mah batt in the big slot, and also be able to stick in a 800 mah in the camera slot. and just do without a camera.
      seems to me like the sky is the limit. we just gotta have somebody build the parts.

  • jazzz

    Xboxone no doubt better than ps4

  • Intellectua1

    Am I the only one not excited about this.. I understand the concept but it seems meh.. Will have to see it in person..

  • j__h

    I like the general idea but the practicalities of such a device make it such that in reality it will not be something that is that desirable.

    Current phones are so tightly packed as a complete integrated system that breaking it up into components incurs such a space cost that will not allow for phones to be packed with the same full set of features (almost none of which I would want to give up).

    For on example: None of the slots are big enough for the battery. The battery in the picture they show of a early prototype is 110mAh that is a factor of 20 times smaller than normal phone batteries.

    • http://people.ign.com/mrfrodo24 MrFrodo24

      Shut up and have some faith in the engineers at Google.

      • j__h

        I want to believe

        • http://people.ign.com/mrfrodo24 MrFrodo24

          Then do. This is how technology evolves. It breaks grounds that people sometimes never think can be broken.

    • Dominic Powell

      let me allay your fears quickly – imagin instead of getting a 2 x 2 block for battery you get a 4 x 2 block that neatly goes over the “separator” on the back of the device. Further, smaller sensor modules etc, could have small 300 – 500mah batteries meant to power their individual use. There are many ways to get around the hurdles of camera life. Not to mention that the Endoskeleton is suppose to have its own battery supply (albeit small – but could be 1000mah across that large skeleton.

      • j__h

        If it takes a 4×2 block then you are using lots of space that other sensors would be. Having a battery split like this week make it less energy dense/less space efficient as you need to use two sperate batteries and each needs the retention system. More smaller batteries is less space effecient than single larger ones. There is no way around this they even said the Space overhead for each module is 25% that is huge. They mentioned the exoskeleton battery was tiny just large enough to allow hot swap. Usably larger and you would be facing a storey thick phone.

        I see this as an amazing platform for cool and highly specialized hardware development. But high end users will likely stock with their flagship phones unless there is a supremely compelling hardware unit for then such as a specific medical test.

        Don’t get me wrong if a base model with Wi-Fi and soc costs fifty dollars i will be buying one and some specialized hardware modules no doubt. But it nor a higher end configuration will be able to surpass a flagship android phone.

    • michael arazan

      Google’s first and second nexus phones work on satellites in space, which they were not designed for, I have faith in Google’s engineers

      Can’t believe I wrote the idea about a phone you could swap out parts for over two years ago on here, and people said it would never work, and now it is actually going to happen.

    • CB3FSU

      Do you think it might be possible for components to continue shrinking in size even though the current gen phones have reached a point of comfort?

  • jazzz

    Xboxone #1 sales console

  • p4

    video no workie ;(

  • EdwardEBrooks

    GG xboxone! YOUR THE MAN http://tinyurl.com/o735ydn

  • jazzz

    Another victory for xboxone

  • jerflash

    I am ready for this.

  • Adrynalyne

    Setting: Some random bar.
    Customer sets down phone. Another customer notices it.

    Five minutes later….

    Stop that guy! He stole the camera off my phone!

    • Ericfranca

      At least he was nice enough to leave the rest of your phone.

      • Adrynalyne

        I suppose…

        It does look like it will be easy for portions to fall out, or be stolen. Hopefully they include some method to lock them in.

        • http://people.ign.com/mrfrodo24 MrFrodo24

          Why did he set down his phone?

        • Silky Johnson

          a case would probably solve that problem

        • Dominic Powell

          If the intended design using electro permanent magnets to holster the individual pieces. it would probably take a drop of 20 feet or more at the perfect angle to dislodge a piece from the housing.

          The goal is to get an adhesion of 30NM of force – 1 order of magnitude greater than the locking mechanism in the engineering concepts (3NM).

          • MrBigStuff

            NM?

    • Justin W

      Not sure where I saw this, but it supposedly has a software lock that prevents the blocks from being released unless you tell it to unlock it… Unless you break it, I suppose.

      • Dominic Powell

        true… electro permanent magnet at 30NM of force.

        • Justin W

          It’s been a long time since I’ve worked with science, but doesn’t an electromagnet require constant power?

          • asd011

            from what i understand its in a passive 0n/0ff state which requires a charge to flip it from on/off and after that charge it wont require anymore energy to stay on/off

    • The Narrator

      Is it just me, or is there a noticeable trend in people leaving important stuff in bars? lol

      • Adrynalyne

        You caught that eh? LOL.

  • bk

    This is really exciting to me. Could be a real game changer, if the cost to performance ratio is good. I love the focus on function AND aesthetics, which I didn’t fully get before.

  • Albert

    That design looks awesome in the picture on the back of the phone.

  • Charlie R.

    April may be exciting, but it’ll still be 2015 before we see a consumer ready product.

    • mcdonsco

      Thinking more like 2016…but I’m loving the idea … No more buying new complete phones, just swap out/in the new parts you want…love it…but I think it will be a glass type thing that will take years to get to market.

      • Dominic Powell

        could be true… but it could really benefit google’s core business of getting people to use its services. Imagine if the skeleton costs $15 as they aim for it to be – they could probably give away 100 million of them a year as the basis for smartphones running Android.

      • Brandon Miller

        In their interview/showing at that LAUNCH event they said that people should have it in their hands by this time next year. However, I’m not sure if he meant developers or consumers.

  • The Narrator

    $50? Count me in. I’m ready the future.