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Project Ara MDK Gives You All the Dirty Design Details on Their Small, Medium, and Large Phone Plans

The Project Ara team released an MDK for the modular phone concept today, to get developers extra ready for next week’s 2-day Ara developer conference. In the MDK, you’ll learn all there is to learn about making modules for the phone. Everything from power consumption to measurements to where you should place your module’s label are outlined in an 81-page document. It’s detailed and technical for designers, yet awesome and interesting at the same time for you and I. 

The guide highlights the three different phone types that Project Ara has in mind, for one. First mentioned at the LAUNCH conference in late February, we are fully expecting there to be medium and small (mini) Ara phones at launch, with plans for a larger, oversized phone later on down the road. As you can see in the diagrams included in this post, each will have limits on the types and amounts of modules that can be attached.

For example, the mini Ara phone can only utilize 2×1 and 1×1 modules, where as the other phones can use bigger modules up to 2×2.

project ara1
project ara2

The guide also talks about connectors, definitions for each part of an Ara phone, geometric guidelines, module assembly, and more. It’s pretty fascinating stuff. Here’s to hoping we get to see working units at next week’s conference.

Via:  Project Ara@ProjectAra
  • Mike

    From what I can tell based on measurements, each unit of module is half an inch, so a 2×2 is 1″ square.

    • needa

      it has to be larger than that. my guess is 3/4″ or so. call the camera lens a quarter inch in diameter and go from there. this way the mid sized phone, which should have a 4.5″ screen, will be in the 2.25″ wide area.

  • Enot

    ei, huilo huli ti moi torgoviy znak ispolzuesh pidoras!

  • Justin Foster

    I can imagine it now: hello moto, can I get a large phone with three side orders of battery modules, a large camera module, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and that’s to go. x) won’t charge my phone for like a week xD

  • SplashMTN

    Just give me all screen on the front (I don’t need a front-facing camera) and an amazing camera on the back. I think it’d be cool if they develop a module that would allow you to swap lenses – something Apple may currently be developing.

  • interstellarmind

    Just curious what happened to all the “credible engineers” who said this would never happen?

    You guys said you were legit engineers in this very field and you spoke with a lot of authority on how this could never happen. Where’d you guys go?

    Maybe youre too busy rethinking your career paths to rebut all this Project Ara Mumbo-Jumbo. Or were you just lying about being engineers?

    • j

      Actually they said there were still major obstacles to overcome, of which these pretty renders do nothing to address.

      It’s possible (most things are) with future technology.. hence why it’s being Researched and Developed still, and not in Production.

    • zurginator

      I do believe I said: “You can always fit more into the same size package if it’s not customizable”. Hence ultrabooks, game consoles, and AIO computers. Hence the 100mah battery in the demo.

      I said it’s not a viable option, and it still isn’t. The niche this targets (super techies) will not buy it because they want the best of the best, in the smallest package.

  • 2Berad

    Why would this not have mass appeal? You know carriers would sell preconfigured packages, the end user would never know the difference. The Best thing is if a module dies you go buy a new one and replace the module and not the entire phone. This is not rocket science. The Planet will thanks us for this move.

    • SplashMTN

      I think a lot of it will depend on the price. Some people would rather pick up an S4 for a penny on contract rather than spending a lot of money for the ability to customize their phone.

      • 2Berad

        I agree price is going to be a big deal. Google has been the leader in lowering the price of top tier cell phones. The possibility of a lower TCO is the part that should make the ara so exciting for all consumers, the fact that you can customize it to fit your life is just one great side affect. I for one have always loved my electronic devices and get somewhat attached to them so to have a cell phone that can adapt and grow with me would be real cool.

        • SplashMTN

          Same here. I still have my Motorola Razr (not Droid Razr, just razr). It’s the first phone I ever owned and it was built like a tank. The thing still works too. I would love the ability to customize what I have already rather than buying a new phone. I currently have the G2 and I love it. I also think it’ll be the first phone that’s still worth a crap at the end of my 2 year contract. It’d be nice just to be able to swap a new battery, processor and camera in it and go from there.

  • Steve B

    Ugly as hell, but I completely understand this is the first gen version. Make it work, then make it beautiful.

    They should add a second endo rib on the from bottom to mimic the top. Dual front speakers, yes please!

  • Chris Hughes

    When I first heard about this I thought “Cool, but it’s kind of a pipe dream or is years away.”

    To see it starting to come together this fast is awesome. Long way to go yet, but great progress

  • morgan boyle

    i said it at announcement. this is not going to be huge in america but crazy popular in emerging markets. then it will trickle back to us in a more evolved form.

  • why…would u need any “front modules” besides the damn screen and standard sensors and camera??…why make a cool design/concept just look god aweful

    • bromate

      For them boom sound speakers, bro!


    After using my note 3, the largest being 4.7 wouldn’t quite do it for me. Isn’t that the screen size of the HTC one?

  • Maximus

    People are completely missing the concept. If this can be done with a phone..imagine the larger implications! Maybe a laptop standard that allows the enduser to remove the video card block…and install a new one that functions. It all revolves around the Endo Spine and Endo Ribs and their connectivity. This tree branch architecture, while not new, is in fact brilliant for what they’re doing.

  • Helder Silva

    Yes it is a real ugly phone

  • Mark Aaron Collado

    if the pricing is right then im willing to give up my nexus 5 for this ^_^

  • Kyle

    Man….can you imagine all the Verizon logos, one on each module….geez 😛

  • Eh, this product seems destined for failure. Not my money wasted though so go ahead!

  • john

    Sorry but this looks like a horrible idea. Not everyone knows that much about phones to be able to change whatever they want. Then we are committed to one company to provide us with these updates or exchanges of these blocks. And how often will this be available? Its a good concept but all and all its not feasible. I wouldn’t want KitKat or whatever OS is coming out next to be updated every time with a block.

    • josuearisty

      This is not for everyone!

    • Orion

      How about seeing how this goes before you start screaming end of the world.

      • zurginator

        How about seeing how this goes, before hailing it as the second coming? 90% of the comments here are people jizzing over a tech demo which may or may not ever reach production.

        • Orion

          How about realizing this is a tech site and yeah we get excited or in your lame wording “jizzing” over new innovation.

    • Big_EZ

      One major point of this is that your NOT committed to a particular company.

    • Tyler Bowden

      You don’t need to know that much about phones to customize it. The average consumer understands that a bigger battery means it lasts longer, a faster processor means a faster phone, more memory means more space for baby photos, etc

      • zurginator

        The average consumer is the person who thinks RAM and disk space are the same thing, and buys the $400 Dell PoS because it’s cheap.

    • Blocksgood

      There should be no reason that a new update will have to come out with every block. The main things are the drivers, and a easy solution to that is for google to create a site that once you plug in your block, connect your phone to computer, and install optimized drivers versus generic drivers. I get the point is to be able to go to store pick up module and plug it in which should work with a generic driver but then connect to get a specific driver to make it more optimized

  • Tomek G

    If somebody figures out how to add slider keyboard module….

    • Joseph Pojunis


      • Tomek G

        then I would buy it in heartbeat

        • Eric R.

          If only Motorola made the Droid 5

          • guest

            Q1 2015. per sarge

  • poop

    God, I swear I get a nerdgasm every time there’s news about Ara XD (Don’t even ask me about my status after I’ve actually read whatever the news is about)

  • John Clausen

    I like the way the back looks, but that is a face only a mother could love. Hopefully they’ll change that.

  • Maxim∑

    I still think this project will be DOA, except to the few of us who appreciate this kind of stuff. I imagine just swapping out hardware won’t work without causing problems

    • Why are there still skeptics that this can work? They wouldn’t be putting so much effort into this project if it couldn’t work.

      • WAldenIV

        You don’t understand R&D if you believe the second sentence you wrote.

        • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

          Maybe you don’t understand that the R&D process comes long before these public steps

          • MotoRulz

            Maybe you don’t understand that part of the R&D process is allowing the public to see these initial steps.

        • I understand it fine. But we’ve seen too much progress come from this idea for it to be a flub.

          • WAldenIV

            There are far too many projects to name that have made it further than this and flopped big time.

          • I’m not saying that this is a shoe-in, but it’s definitely got a much better chance of succeeding based on what we’ve seen thus far.

  • Orion

    I can’t wait until this comes to the masses.

  • BenG

    Way to excited about this.

  • Peter Amirian

    Only fear I have, is that different manufacturers will make modules with varying thicknesses. I want a flat phone, not a protruding mess.

    • Big_EZ

      Maybe a few standard thicknesses could be set. Then most modules could be built to be either thin, thick for huge batteries and cameras, and a median size.

      • Max

        Thus is exactly what they have done. The modules have standard thickness which the developers have to follow when developing modules, except for the camera module whose thickness is allowed to vary

    • FknTwizted

      and a very good possibility that only one manufacturer will be doing this.

  • M3D1T8R

    This is awesome, but is “2 x 5” inches or just “X” (standard modular size to be determined)? I hope it’s not inches, as the Small at 2″ wide is too small, while the Medium at 3″ too big. I really believe a phone needs to be under 70mm wide to be comfortable in hand. So I wish they would do it in metric instead of inches, like ideally around 60mm normal size and a maybe a large 90mm (phablet), which keeps the modular compatibility 1.5x size increase, and possibly add a huge tablet version later, at 120mm, with corresponding heights. I guess this is more or less what they’re trying to do, but going with inch increments doesn’t really make sense to me.
    Basically I hope they make each modular “block” around 30mm in order to make the sizes work.

    • BenG

      Table 3.1 – Rear Module Maximum PCB Dimensions

      Rear Module PCB Maximum Dimensions (X, Y)

      1×1 18 mm x 18 mm (TBD)

      1×2 18 mm x 40.5 mm (TBD)

      2×2 39.5 mm x 41 mm (TBD)

      • brkshr

        Go ahead and figure out the dimensions of each of these phones, based on those specs and these drawings, and get back to me… please… /s

        • BenG

          Big phone is probably comparable to the s5 medium Iphone and the small is just really f’in small. That is assuming those dividers aren’t to large.

          • M3D1T8R

            Yep, Medium would be almost exactly the size of an Iphone 5S. Large like a Note 3. Small…tiny.

          • BenG

            Yeah you’re right Large would be closer to the Note 3.

      • M3D1T8R

        I couldn’t find that, thanks!

      • M3D1T8R

        That would make the Medium around 60mm x 120mm, very nice size for a smallish phone. But this would make the Small tiny, only about 40mm wide, not a lot of room for a screen, reminds me of a little Ipod.

        • sagisarius

          You’re my hero. I’ve been trying to figure out actual dimensions of those base plates for a few days!

  • Tyrone Biggums

    I know Imma get sh*t for this but DAMN that’s an ugly phone!

    • K

      It’s pretty hideous but a welcomed change nonetheless from the regular smartphone. The module over the front display looks way out of place.

    • brkshr

      Let’s get the function down first, then form will come. Remember what the first smartphones looked like?

    • jaredgreenwald

      Slap on a case and you’ll never know the difference. But, now that I think of it, how the hell are case companies going to be able to work with things like camera/no camera on front/back or in different spots on the back (left/right)? Yikes…

      • Peter Amirian

        Yeah I can certainly see how the aspect of designing a case to work with a camera (w/or w/out flash) would be a major issue, but for the most part each one of the devices has the same locations for the power and volume buttons, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

      • Rob

        Aren’t there only 3 sizes? So just make 3 cases?

        • Big_EZ

          But the camera may be in different places, or the modules may be thicker/thinner. Someone may have a small, cheap camera module while their best friend has a huge camera sensor on theirs. One person may have a 4000 mah battery while the next guy only has a 2000 mah battery

          • LooksDontMatter

            I think the people who are truly concerned over the overall look will conform to the cases design. Where techy people who are more interested in having the best modules wont be as concerned about the case. And if you watched the video demo they had all red colored modules and didn’t really look that bad. In most cases there will probably be a case with a cut out towards top right of the back as thats where most cameras are located at. Main reason being is if you flip your phone over for landscape you still get feel of normal camera

      • BenG

        If it sells well (which unfortunately I doubt will happen) they’ll make every case you would need, just look at all the iphone crap you can buy.

        • Dave

          I can’t really see this going mainstream. Maybe a notch group like Dell Aliens are PCs.

          • BenG

            I agree, it reminds me of Google Glass in that in it’s current form factor it probably won’t be a commercial hit but possibly in future installments after refining it it could have success.

          • zurginator

            Even more niche than that – this will only appeal to the highest levels of techies. I’d even say only a small portion of DL readers will actually buy it.

        • FknTwizted

          You high? This is what people have been asking for… I for one hate not being able to swap out my ram, hd, screen etc. for one it will cut down on the waste of phones being made two, it gives you the option of what is important to the person buying the unit me the camera is nice but a bigger screen and battery are what i look for the most which may not be what you want in a camera.. How many times do you read post where someone is saying its a great phone but i wish the camera was better or wish the battery was bigger etc… People like options even though they don’t need them.

          • zurginator

            The thing is only like 1% of the PC market swaps things out – why would it be any different with phones?

          • FknTwizted

            Are you referring to desk tops or laptops? cause the latter is set up is really difficult to swap out cause there isn’t really anything you can swap out other then memory or hd it was setup for being tossed after a couple years and these companies are pushing that model with all mobile its the only way to keep demand up for their products. This is great idea since people are starting to realize that their disposable income is not as it was 7 years ago and are looking of ways to saving money and stretching what they have out longer.. I was noticing a trend while i was working for verizon people were coming in to repair as oppose to buying new or purchasing insurance to make sure said device will last longer than a handful of years.

      • JoshGroff

        Bumper cases would work or like a jigsaw puzzle case where you slide the tiles to reveal the camera.

      • morgan boyle

        there will be a standard form factor. if you buy the super big battery, most cases wont fit but i be the camera lands in the same spot almost every time.

      • Justin Foster

        If you can just replace the module I doubt cases will be as mandatory.

        Nevertheless, what if they make modular cases? Lol

        • interstellarmind

          There actually will be slip-on, 3d printable cases for each module.

    • The Narrator

      Hide yo kids hide yo wife, this mawfugga crazy

  • brkshr

    I thought these were in inches at first. Thank God they’re not

    • M3D1T8R

      LOL okay I guess I should have read it more closely before making my comment below!

  • Grizzy

    This has A LOT of potential. Hopefully developers jump all over it.

  • The Narrator

    Is that an iphone all the way to the right?

    • Brady

      no, it’s the “2×5”. pffft…duh. 😉

    • Guest

      That would be the 4×5.

  • Daniel Walsh

    This is going to be so awesome.

    • WAldenIV

      I don’t know. I think it’s an interesting concept that I’d like to see work, but I expect it to fail hard.