The team behind Google's modular smartphone Project Ara has just announced that the third iteration of Ara will be getting a new custom-made processor. Project Ara is an effort from Google's ATAP business to design and create a modular smartphone that will allow users to customise and update functions and components as they see suitable - just like you do with your PC.
The ATAP team has announced its partnership with Chinese chip maker Rockchip in creating the new SoC for Project Ara, which will replace the Texas Instruments OMAP 4660 processors used in earlier prototypes. Taking into account the modular system of Ara, the new processor will come with a native, general-purpose UniPro interface and is specifically designed to be able to function as an independent module without the need for a bridge chip.
"We view this Rockchip processor as a trailblazer for our vision of a modular architecture where the processor is a node on a network with a single, universal interface - free from also serving as the network hub for all of the mobile device's peripherals," head of Project Ara at Google ATAP, Paul Eremenko, explained.
Along with announcing the new chip, Eremenko revealed a delay in manufacturing devices for those who won units at the Google I/O earlier this year. A problem in plating the boards with an incorrect material is the cause behind the schedule hiccup. Shipments of the reworked hardware are now expected to start within the next couple of weeks. Google will "adjust prize challenge timelines accordingly" as it determines ship dates.
Rockchip's upcoming SoC is expected to be demoed in the third design spiral, the team stated, with prototypes anticipated in early 2015. With the amount of progress we've seen on Ara in the past few months we hope to see commercial versions of the device sooner rather than later, despite it still being a long way from being finished. Regardless, we hope that you enjoy watching this modular smartphone progress as much as we do.