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Question of the Day: What Modules Would You Include in Your Project Ara Phone?

Project Ara, the modular phone project now run by Google, is probably one of the most interesting smartphone developments for tech enthusiasts to pay attention to in years. The idea is simple – you have a bare-bones skeleton phone that can be customized through modules that are created by third party outfits. Things like battery size, camera sensor, CPU, RAM, radio connectivity, and display could (in theory) all be chosen and then swapped depending on the user, time of place, or budget.

Think about a phone that could start at $50 because it only has display and WiFi modules, but could then reach a variety of price points from there through camera additions, 4G LTE radios, a higher-resolution display, an awesome speaker, or a 2-day battery? And then think about next year, when a new camera module is out or a display can be upgraded from 1080p to 2K or Qualcomm releases a new Snapdragon? Wouldn’t that be the life? 

Project Ara

Google is leaving module development (for the most part) up to third parties, so that could mean you have an AMOLED display module from Samsung, speaker module from someone like Sonos, a camera sensor from Sony, and a battery from Motorola (plus a back-up module), all made for Ara. Those are random examples of well-known companies who may not participate at all, but you sort of get the point here.

So I’m curious, how would you build a smartphone with modules? Where would your focuses be? If you could build a Project Ara smartphone, what would you include?

Let us know in the comments.

  • Edward Smith

    A module that facilitates easy use of other larger sensors that can’t fit the form factor of Ara.

    Sure there are ways to manipulate the current on board smartphone sensors to do interesting things but these are imprecise measurements at slow speeds with the added error of post processing fudge factors.
    Imagine being able to link your an actual radiation sensor rather than a CMOS camera sensor workaround.
    Maybe a wall stud finder and voltage/current sensor working in concert with the smartphone camera recording the live location of the external sensor to give the home owner an accurate “X-ray” view of a wall?
    How about medical sensing technologies? Ole Doc Bones would wave around the blinking salt shaker to check patient’s vitals.

    I don’t want to just make my smartphone look like a tricorder, I want to be able to use it like one too.

  • Moto X display (720p is more than enough for that size screen), plastic to cut cost, G2 battery, middle of the road camera, no front facing camera, GSM radio, SD slot.

  • Linx

    This is the best idea in mobile, since the invention of the smart phone!

  • Eyal Shalev

    I’d take that full 2 day battery please with the top snapdragon processor a 2GB RAM.
    The screen can remain 1080p. And a 12MP OIS camera sensor. 16GB storage.

    • Linx

      THANK YOU! Some days I feel like I’m the only one who cares about battery life on these blogs. I’m frustrated on a daily basis by a phone that requires me to carry a charger & pray that I can find an outlet or by having to carry some gigantic battery pack to make it through the day. I have no idea why Samsung is the only phone manufacturer that allows for a spare battery…SMH!

  • KidFlash1904

    Slide out keyboard!

  • artsr2002

    Could I have a GSM module and a CDMA module with this then? Cool.

  • Keith taylor

    All i can imagine is people walking around with pockets full of modules and trading them like baseball cards..

  • MrWicket

    all the things!

  • steelew

    screen, battery, camera (front/back), comms (3/4G LTE WIFI, bluetooth, gps), storage module (large with no external memory needed), LED notifications & flashlight, speaker module, wireless charging, NFC, sensor module: thermomter, barometer, gyrometer, accelerometer…). Finger print scanner…ha ha ha just kidding, that would be stupid.

  • Christopher Young

    Headphone amp. I want to make an audiophile smartphone.

    • Dan

      glad to see someone making something besides just a smartphone.. think outside the box people!
      Contractor modules – ir temp sensor, distance measurement sensor, nail gun..
      Environment sciences modules – o2, co2, methane, all sorts of probes, ph, etc..

      I’d have to carry around a case just to hold all my extra sensors.

  • Jaimin

    This feature need to be in android http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMU51KeRIcs

  • Bruce Wayne

    Don’t care. I get a new phone every 5 months so I don’t understand why this is awesome unless I planned on keeping the phone forever.

    • flosserelli

      Not everyone can buy a new phone every 5 months. Besides, the most compelling aspect is that you buy what you want according to your priorities, and don’t pay for things that you don’t need.

    • QPHALO

      You wouldn’t really be keeping the same phone forever. When a new module that is better comes out, you buy it and replace your old one. So now you aren’t having to buy a new phone just cause the nonremovable one in your old phone died, or the screen broke, digitizer went crazy, speaker quit working, etc. Now instead of paying 500+ every 5 months, now you spend a lot less. Really a good idea because we have all seen how they like to release a new phone and the only difference from the last one is maybe chip set and updates to their own ui skin.

  • aBabyPenguin

    Did no one else freak out when they saw Active Notifications on those devices?? Since it’s Google, I wonder if that amazing feature will be making it into stock Android! 😀 I can only hope!

    • Kevin

      If it is that means OEMs are going to have include the X8 CPU or something similar to it. And then Samsung is going to call it S Display.

  • ConCal

    -a pico projector you can swap in and out when you need it.
    -a module that just has a set of hardware buttons you can use in a poweporint presentation to switch through slides.
    -a module that is a DSLR camera camea and you can just click it in when you want a full featured camera.
    -A barcode scanner or credit card reader, like square. (Perfect for merchants)
    -a night vision camera.
    -All different types Of sensors, like a tire pressure gauge or a heat sensor CO2 detector.
    There are tons of ways it can be used, especially in the industrial space.

  • Justin Larmay

    I wonder how easy they are going to make it to swap parts? Wouldn’t it suck to leave your phone on the table and come back to find your camera was jacked?

  • Alex Goings

    I would just build a stupid beast phone. Best fastest processor available with the most cores, highest res display possible, lots of ram, 64 gig storage, a decent camera, reasonable speakers and a big enough battery to get me through 27 hours.

    • superg05

      you thinking to small with a module that size you could have a tb if used same compression as microsdxc 128 gb cards

    • Kevin

      It’s already avaliable. Its called the Note 3

  • Viet Hoang-Tran

    QWERTY Keyboard 😀

  • Rand Paul 2016

    Tv tuner

    • superg05


  • morgan boyle

    i am mostly interested in Camera company’s like Nikon, Canon and Fuji to get involved and develop higher end modules for my phone. but why stop there. perhaps a camera module with a high end microphone for great video.

  • Guest

    If I could magically add whatever specs to a phone that I wanted (but assuming I also had to pay for them,) I would get something close to a Moto X with a more current CPU and 50% bigger battery.

  • panicswhenubered

    That’s the problem with Project Ara, once I get done building my custom “superphone” it will cost $1000+ and be the size of a Nexus 10.

    • panicswhenubered

      • flosserelli

        Cha-ching! That will be $900 off-contract. Will you be paying by cash or credit card? 😉

  • Ericfranca

    Anyone else think connectors as slots for internal components would make more sense? Giant components seem so silly for many of these things. I’d almost like it more if you could just crack it open like a phone case (a la computer case) and slot in new upgrades.

    • morgan boyle

      you wanna see the inside of my computer case? wires everywhere! that would be a mess for a phone

  • John Watson

    I’d basically build a Nexus 5 with a bigger battery and SD Card reader.

  • breadable

    Top of the market processor
    Much ram
    20+ Megapixel camera
    Flux capacitor

    • Brandon

      Much Specs. Time Travel.

  • 5.5 inch amoled display, biggest moto battery I could get, WiFi , radio from moto, Sony speakers and camera, exynos or snapdragon processor.


  • Menger40

    Don’t SoC’s have RAM, CPU (and GPU for that matter) on the same chip? I suspect we’ll be choosing our processor and RAM together as one module.

    • Dan

      hopefully they can get the mundane stuff like processors and ram and memory all down to just a 1×1 module to leave room for more cool stuff (and batteries)

  • Craig Trunzo

    Drop a cellphone now and you worry about the screen cracking as you pick up the front and back of your case and reattach them to the phone.

    Drop an Ara phone and spend the next 20 minutes looking or your camera, then worrying about the screen being crack and putting your case back together. ANd let’s not even think about what happens when you use a shake gesture. PARTS EVERYWHERE!!!

    • Menger40

      Your phone case will serve the dual purposes of keeping your phone from getting scratched and keeping all your components firmly in place. 😛

  • Mojer

    Sounds like the perfect way for them to get the most money possible from us. Let’s help them!

  • Shane Redman

    w/e it takes to make a moto x with the droid maxx battery

    • Jared Denman


  • Daniel

    Certainly Camera, MicroSD Slot, maybe even a sliding qwerty somehow would be awesome…but certainly would be nice to offer various sizes in case you want to snap these things onto a smaller screen that actually fits in my hands/pockets.

  • OF

    Just a battery. Nothing else…

  • brkshr

    The best of whatever is available

  • ruin_u

    A phone like that would be Verizon’s biggest nightmare! Everytime a new upgrade came out they would have to recertify and by the time they were done it would be out of date!

  • Michael Johnson

    – 720p SAMOLED display (saves battery life, allows active display, 1080p not necessary IMO)
    (I assume the display will also contain a low-res camera, at least one mic, earpiece, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, volume & power buttons)
    – High-end CPU/GPU chipset
    – 802.11ac wifi & all-band HSPA+ & LTE radios
    – Nano SIM slot
    – 32GB storage
    – 2GB RAM
    – Big-Ass MF Battery (aka BAMFB)
    – Best reasonably-priced camera sensor/lens
    – Decent stereo speakers

  • SplashMTN

    5.2 in+ 1080p screen
    dual camera set up (the kind that will hopefully be found in the new htc one)
    64gb storage
    Large battery
    2-3gb of ram

    I’m really interested in having cameras with larger sensors and being able to use swappable cameras/lenses on a phone. I think that’d be great.

    • Dan

      there is no reason a slr lens type camera couldn’t be modulized, what’s that Sony add on lens camera thing, make it on a module. sure it’s not going to fit in your pocket…

  • me

    Good Speakers. Good Audio Driver for Bluetooth and Line out. Wireless charging. Big Battery. 13mp ois camera. 5.2″ screen.

    Basically give me a LG G2 Nexus phone with a good speakers.

  • Arty McBert

    -SD card slot is a must, even if I can upgrade the storage. I like to keep my media files and apps/misc. ROM stuff separate.
    -4.5-4.7″ 720p IPS/SLCD display
    -Dual core processor with additional cores for different tasks, a la Motorola’s X8
    -No front facing camera
    -Kevlar back
    Oh, and a Motorola logo too.

  • Dorian Brooks

    HAL-9000 module!!!


    Gotta have front facing speakers. For the display size And backings though, I think there should be something like different sized skeletons to build off of so that everyone isn’t restricted to a single size.

  • Valdir Gomes

    coffee maker
    internal combustion engine

    • Valdir Gomes

      maybe some jets
      and jarvis system computing.


    “…display can be upgraded from 1080p to 2K”
    1080p is already 2K.

    • The Narrator

      If you want to get technical, it is.

      • ERIFNOMI

        These are technical specs. Why would we not be technical? Do you want batteries to just be labeled as “big” with no meaning behind them? How about the next SoC just includes a “fast” GPU?

        This brings me to my biggest gripe with 4K screens. Up until now, we’ve been abbreviating resolutions by their exact verticle pixel count. Now, suddenly, we’re going to horizontal resolution and rounding it. It’s fairly obvious why; horizontal resolution is higher and then rounding up makes that number larger still. It’s just stupid. Let’s call 4K what it is: 2160p

  • 4.7″ 720 screen AMOLED
    32GB Storage
    2GB RAM
    10MP Camera
    2800+ mAh Battery
    Quality CPU
    Quality Speaker
    2MP Front Camera

    Oh look. I built a moto X

  • Guest

    coffee maker
    internal combustion engine
    an expension module module

  • Orion

    Man this would be a dream come true. I would hook that mofo up to the max. Big screen size and big battery for example. What!?

  • 1080p screen
    32GB storage (I don’t need a microSD slot)
    CDMA/GSM band radio to work on all the major domestic bandwidths on 4G
    2GB RAM
    10MP sensor with hardware and software OIS with a 1.9 aperture
    2800+ mAh battery
    1.8 ghz quadcore snapdragon 800
    330gpc adreno
    801.11 AC wifi
    Decent speakers (doesn’t have to be boom sound)
    2.1MP front cam with 2.2 aperture

  • deskjob

    A light saber. And of course a 6000mah battery to power it.

  • Fresh360

    I am all for customization and I am positive I will continue to be the early adopter I am and buy a Project Ara phone BUT I suck at customizing things. With that said I would probably just buy everything and have a draw full of Ara modules FML!

    • Matthew Ponce de Leon

      I’ve been thinking about doing the same thing.

  • Ian

    pic: so you need 64GB and an SD slot? wowsers

    • superg05

      i 128gb microsd card it tiny the same compression scaled up to that size of even that smaller block could be huge maybe over 500gb or more and a large block storage i’d just passout when i see the storage size

  • p4

    I would swap my battery out for a hamster wheel

  • JPfingsten

    Unlockable bootloader module.

    The ability to have an LTE module and a 3G module that allows me to be on EVERY network if I so choose.

    • superg05

      you want a module with a software defined modem

  • chris_johns

    Thats easy…a Garrote module

  • Eric

    One thing is certain, mine won’t have a heart rate monitor.

    • The Narrator

      Apparently, every phone has one already.

    • Chad

      Correct me if i’m wrong, but isn’t the S5’s “heart rate monitor” just some kind of camera sensor? I read a thread (either here or on reddit) that was saying any phone with a flash next to its camera sensor can be a “kinda-accurate” heart rate monitor.

      • Raven

        I think they added a dedicated light sensor in the flash grouping under the camera itself, but yes, I have seen those other apps that just made use of your camera.

      • Way too serial

        Look at my other comment and Raven’s.

    • Lawrence_Hart
      • Way too serial

        You guys are taking his comment way to too serious. Yes, an app can do this, but the S5 has it’s own dedicated “sensor” for it under the actual camera. That’s why some people are laughing at Samsung for including it since it has already been around.

        • Kevin

          Even you don’t believe that. “Sensor”.

  • Bradels

    Symmetrical front facing speakers, 16MP Camera and no HTC logo…

  • Buur

    Spoon, little saw, corkscrew, bottle opener…

    • Dan

      +1, wire cutters, awl, pliers, tweezers… the swiss army/leatherman module

  • droidify

    Finger print scanner
    Heart rate monitor.
    I can’t believe no one has done this yet.

  • Juan

    Besides the necessary stuff to get a basic smartphone going:
    – a 20MP OIS Camera (kinda like those found in a Lumia)
    – Whatever the top dog Snapdragon processor would be next year
    – 5″ 1080P LCD
    – 3200 mAh battery
    – 64GB storage
    – Dual sim
    – …goes on

    So basically it’s going to hurt my wallet

    • The Narrator

      Only 1080p?

      • Raven

        Yes, because anything bigger than 1080P is just silly on phones. I still think 4K is silly on anything less than 40″.

        • The Narrator

          But…. Pixels man!

    • kixofmyg0t

      So you want a Sony Xperia Z2?

  • Lee Phillips

    I’d likely focus on battery and camera the most. Upgrade the other parts over time to better pieces.

  • landon

    A laser

    • Guest


  • Paul

    So… I’m not so excited about this. Connectors are huge (even tiny connectors are big compared to embedded, soldered on, components). The renders we’ve seen all look really cool and fun, but they are just that – renders. I don’t see how this will really work in real hardware without winding up with a either a bulky phone, or one that is missing features we have today.

    That being said. I’d go buy enough modules to swap them out as needed for various conditions. Long plane ride? Remove radios add battery. Long phone call? Remove camera add battery. Sitting at my desk? Remove battery add speakers.

    • maxx1987

      i like your approach, it really captures the most important advantage of this type of mobile phone: adaptability. who says you need to have customized phone for all situations? why not several setups? love it and hope it becomes a reality, but like you said, it might be farther off than i’m hoping.

    • Dominic Powell

      watch this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18LU5UtG5-M&feature=share&t=5m16

      They are really working at tackling the problems you are talking about… But her if the phone is only 9 – 10mm thin versus the 6-8 mm now and is roughly the same footprint, is that really such a bad tradeoff for all the millions of ways you could customize your device.

      • Brandon

        That just got me so much more excited for Project Ara!

        • Trevor

          Me too! I think this is going to be the actual next big thing. If they can get it out at a decent price and to a point where your phone can look nice (read: not just a block of blocks), it’s going to be everywhere in a couple/few years.

          • Brandon

            They state that the “sleds” will only be about $15, hopefully the blocks won’t be that expensive. I agree with the “phone looking nice” part, I hope they (or someone else) will come up with a solid back that can snap on like most phones have to cover the modules, I don’t want my phone looking like a cobblestone road.

  • Fry

    Best everything

  • cransr

    “tractor beam”

  • wagner

    Interchangable Carrier Logos!! FTW

    • michael arazan

      Every carrier and every manufacturer, make your phone look like a Nascar race car, sell advertising space and make them all pay for the phone in exchange for advertising, instead of us doing it for free.

      Wonder how much Verizon will sell their CDMA antenna module for? $200 up front and a 2 year contract?

  • WAldenIV

    They are going to get expensive in a hurry.

  • gintoddic

    temperature module that can connect to different probes as well as take surface temps with a laser.

  • Tyler James Edward Hills

    An LG IPS LCD 1080p display (G2 is gorgeous) HTC speakers, Moto 3200 mah battery, Sony’s 20mp camera, and probably Moto’s X8 computing system. So a lower powered processor with the latest Adreno GPU, 3GB RAM, and dedicated processors for the Touchless Controls.

  • turdbogls

    5″ 1080P display, 3000 mah battery, HSPA radios, biggest camera sensor i could get without adding a hump, Snapdragon 800 Processor (or whatever the “it” processor is at the time…although, depending on price, i would be completely happy with something SD 800 powered as long as the phone ran stock android.
    3-4GB RAM
    accelerometer,and gyroscope
    and that crazy cool red/orange color scheme.

    • WAldenIV


      • turdbogls

        i doubt that. I could buy an already built phone from samsung next year with even better specs for $600
        the point of a modular phone is to keep the price down. going with “only” a 1080P screen, and “only” a 10MP camera, and a last gen processor (SD800 processor next year will be “crap”) should keep it fairly cheap. the only big money item would be the battery possibly and the RAM.

        • Elliot Kotis

          Yeah but it is modular….

          • turdbogls

            ok……not sure what you are trying to say here….lol
            keeping it modular itself doesn’t increase the value..that would defeat the whole purpose of ara

      • The Narrator

        Find 7 will have all that, but 2K screen at 5.5in, and 4000mah battery. Under $700.

  • Kevin

    pizza oven!