Google is forging ahead with its Project Ara modular smartphone plans, announcing the names of the first 100 beta testers who will be receiving the first retail edition of the handset free of charge.
Originally a Motorola ATAP initiative
acquired by Google and retained after the rest of the division was sold to Lenovo
, Project Ara is an interesting take on the smartphone concept. Borrowing the highly-modular ethos of desktop computers, a Project Ara handset is split into a motherboard analogue dubbed the 'Endo' and individual modules that connect in order to give the device its capabilities.
Project Ara modules range from displays to radios, cameras, storage, and even the processor itself. This, the idea goes, allows users to easily build a custom phone: sacrificing battery size for a better camera and more storage, for example, or using a slower processor and massive battery for long runtimes. It's a clever concept, and one Google appears determined to bring to market despite concerns about its niche nature and the overall size of the finished Ara handset once the modules are in place.
In April this year, Google announced that it would release the first Project Ara devices in January 2015
, but it seems that the schedule has slipped somewhat to at least March. The company has announced a list of a hundred Project Ara Scouts, people recruited through the DScout service
to feedback and influence the design of Ara. These lucky contributors - a drop in the ocean of the 90,000 who signed up - are set to receive a free Project Ara Endo and modules, with Google stating that it will be refining the prototype's design over the next eight months before building the finished retail model.