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Phonebloks Posts Project Ara Update Video, Shows the Team Behind the Undertaking

Now that we’re so close to the Project Ara Developers Conference set to go down on April 15th and 16th, it seems Phonebloks couldn’t resist uploading an update video on the progress of the team behind Project Ara. The video shows some of the prototypes of Project Ara, but there are no finished products to be revealed here.

A lot of goodies are in the video, including some details about how Google plans to get Ara out to consumers. We also meet with two Google Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) engineers, the aptly-named Mechanical Workstream lead, Ara, and the Electrical Engineering and Software lead, Seth. The two have devised a way to connect modules to the endoskeletons with electropermanent magnets, which means progress.

We also learned of ATAP partnerships with 3D Systems for manufacturing 3D printed parts for use on Ara, and Soso Limited for a simple Ara configuration application to experiment with different modules.

The head of Design at Google ATAP also appears in the video, and shows off the three different endoskeleton renders while stating that ATAP will not be covering the modules up with anything to show the modularity of the device. While I don’t personally agree with this, at least we’re seeing headway here.

What do you think of these new details? Do you think Ara could be hitting the market this year? Let us know down below in the comments.

Via: Phonebloks (YouTube)


  • 2Berad

    This could be like moto maker on steroids. How nice would it be to just upgrade components or replace broken ones and not have to buy a new phone.

  • Kirk M.

    I have a feeling this isnt going to be a 4G LTE capable phone…

    • Probably will depend on your cellular radio module, I’d think

  • hyperbeatser

    This. Is. So. Cool.

  • Orion

    So looking forward to this. As far as 2015 goes, this will be a must buy.

  • Andrew Remmers

    Will buy one of every exoskelton just to play with phone dynamics from day to day.

  • 3 big questions.
    1.Will I be able to buy one of these starter kits on T-Mobile?
    2. Is storage space considered upgradable?
    3. Ties into number two. If storage space is upgradable(internal) what if I want to upgrade that chip? Does everything get wiped?
    Guess these are questions for 2 weeks from now.

    • thecokedragon

      Storage space is definitely considered upgradable. Since the base device comes with a very limited amount of internal storage (I forgot how much, but definitely not enough to go by — might’ve even been <4GB), you'll need to add your own. I'd imagine upgrading storage is the same as it is for computers, meaning you're basically replacing your hard drive and losing everything that's not on the internal storage.

      Some kind of tool to transfer data between storage endos would be awesome.

      • We have to remember though that Google is running this project and we know how they feel about storage cards

        • thecokedragon

          Unless there really want us to live off the limited internal storage they’ve confirmed will come with the device (or at least the prototypes do), you don’t have to worry about upgradable storage. But storage cards (like SD Cards)…
          https://dscout.com/assets/ara/device-db0246799c016c62b42eac0ea9e1fa1b.jpg (Take a look at the rightmost endo (likely a battery) and the microUSB port that’s on it; I imagine they’ll do something similar with storage endos in that they’ll all have microSD card slots on them)

        • calculatorwatch

          The whole point of modular phone design like this is that you can get many different manufacturers in on it. If SanDisk wants to develop a microSD card slot for it I don’t see why Google would try and stop them.

          That said, since it’s running Android Google could easily prevent people from upgrading/expanding storage by gimping the software, but that would be a pretty dick move on their part.

          • Hopefully adding something like that wouldn’t come at the cost of removing another component such as a backfacing camera

          • calculatorwatch

            It will be interesting to see what kinds of conventions arise with regards to what type or block to use for each component. For instance, do you put a camera in a vertical 2×1 or a horizontal 2×1? More to the point, you could use a 2×2 block to hold a chipset integrated with other parts such as memory and/or a microSD slot. But if you put the chipset in a 2×1 block you could upgrade the memory separately and also be able to transfer the chipset to a smaller exoskeleton that doesn’t have a space for 2×2 blocks.

  • WHat if I want to upgrade my front facing camera from 2MP to 8MP? I havent seen modules for the front of the phone

    • Daeshaun Griffiths

      i’m sure they are woking with something like that. Because i’d slap some speakers on the front. F the camera.

      • that too. I’d love me some Boomsound speakers. That won’t happen though unless HTC or some other big company decides to cut into their market share and do their own designs. I heard about a platform that manufactures can use. Maybe HTC can get on that.

        • ERIFNOMI

          Or, you know, you just put speakers on the front without that silly name and tell HTC to pack it in their ass.

        • onDroid

          Google isn’t making the modular parts. They are developing the endoskeleton and the standards for how different modules connect. The individual modules will be sourced by whatever company decides to make them. It doesn’t need to be a current phone manufacture who releases a module. Take speakers for example. Why would I want HTC to develop a front facing speaker? While boomsound is nice HTC is not a speaker company. I would much have source the speaker from Bose or Harmon Kardon. Same goes with cameras. Now we will be able to have Nikon get in the game and release a mobile camera without them having to develop an entire smartphone to do it. This will allow so many more parts manufacturers to get in the game and will ultimately drive down prices and drive up quality. This phone has the potential to be revolutionary for multiple reasons

    • arabdude

      They have a removable screen and then a small thin endo on top, I imagine that holds the front camera and light senser

  • Ryan N

    Definitely not this year… But I say 2015 may be the year of consumer assembled phones. This will be the pinnacle for smartphone enthusiasts. Take the best from each manufacturer and…


    But in all seriousness, this will be huge.

    • AbbyZFresh

      Not for the public though. The average person isn’t going to waste time trying to find the right parts for their phone. When people want a new phone, they want it right now and ready for use when they get to the carrier store.

      • easy peasy

        Fine: walk in, grab be module, pay and pi it in. Done.

      • Orion

        Yeah because its rocket science right?

        • Adam

          It doesn’t matter if it is super easy, I imagine most people won’t bother. Look at prebuilt PCs vs build-your-own as an example. Building your own PC is not hard, there are tons of resources and places to buy all the parts, but hardly anybody expect an enthusiast does it. Maybe people will choose between a two similar models that have different processor speeds or hard drive sizes, but most people just look at price and aesthetics and go with whatever prebuilt model they can find so they don’t have to learn a whole bunch of stuff.

          Maybe stores would be able to offer a base modular phone that the masses can buy, and they then have the ability to upgrade blocks in the future (carrier even makes more money that way…). I still doubt more than 10% of the people that buy it would upgrade more than one piece.

          • Orion

            I just think the thought of making your own phone is awesome. If people can’t see that then oh well.

          • arabdude

            I disagree, I could definitely see the average person buying a bests by dre audio component or a Cannon camera component, techies will just buy smarter and possibly not officially licensed parts

      • Pyro411

        Actually I could see it taking off, at the carrier shops they’d sell the base branded models & sell modules on the side which every single carrier will push their sales teams to upsell the blocks that make the most profit for the carrier and not so much upsell the best components. Where as a prosumer would be able to walk in to the store and buy as they wish & order whatever they couldn’t get in the brick & mortar shop.

    • j

      Consumer configured perhaps, but not consumer assembled next year. The renders are an absolute pipe dream still. The “working” versions are nothing anyone would ever use.

  • AbbyZFresh

    Will it be cheap? How much for each part? When will this release?

    Most importantly, will it be customizable? Choosing different colors?

    • Justin W

      The answers you seek were in the last video posted from SXSW (I believe it was SXSW, but it might have been another convention – I can’t seem to locate it via a quick search).

      $50 cost of materials (that was the wording used approximately in the video, it’s to be seen if that’s sold price, though everyone went hogwild over a $50 sale price to consumers), price for each module IIRC was around $20-$50, depending on cost of the parts themselves/how far up the specs tree they are, they are shooting for the end of 2014, and do you even have to ask about customizability? Well, you did so I’ll answer: yes, the blocks are supposed to have removeable “casings” aka covers that you can replace with different colors based on your preference (which is also demonstrated in the video, which I wish I could find).

  • Colton

    so excite. also, fun interesting video!