Google has announced an upcoming developers' conference for its Project Ara, a smartphone composed of modules which can be assembled in all sorts of configurations. The conference, which will be held this April, will take place at Silicon Valley's Computer History Museum between 15th and 16th April, and will be streamed live online. An upcoming Ara Module Developers' Kit will also become available around the same time.
The modular smartphone was first disclosed back in October 2013 and is being developed under Motorola's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group which Google held onto after the company was acquired by Lenovo. The group has plans to set prices for the phone as low as $50. The team plans achieve this attractive price tag by launching a 'grayphone', a basic customisable endoskeleton or 'endo', the chassis which holds the modules in place, which comes with the fundamentals of possibly just a screen, battery and Wi-Fi.
Of course, the $50 shell is bait for anyone who is looking for more, as it wouldn't be much of a phone. The 'grayphone' will come with an app to help users decide on other modules to purchase. Head of Ara and alumnus of DARPA, Paul Eremenko also suggested that users would be able to customise their underpowered casing at special stalls equipped with tools which can help them build their own customised device.
"The question was basically, could we do for hardware what Android and other platforms have done for software?" said Eremenko to Time Techland. "Which means lower the barrier to entry to such a degree that you could have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of developers as opposed to just five or six big [manufacturers] that could participate in the hardware space."
The team has admitted that it has yet to achieve this possible price target; it also still has many more challenges to beat before the phone is ready for the market. However Google hopes to have a product on the market a year or so from now, as Project Ara is set to be ready for commercial launch by Q1 2015.