WOHOO!!! Finally, Google gave us some well needed update on the most exciting smartphone technology to date. Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone is truly revolutionary and I can’t wait to get my hands on one. Well, we’re going to have to wait a few more months, but at least we have some solid information on the current state of the project.
At Google I/O 2016 we got to see the latest developer version of Ara and a glimpse of what the final Consumer version should look like.
Developer Version Image
Consumer Version Image
Changes In Design
Ara’s overall design has completely changed since we last saw it and I am pretty pleased with the new design, even the developer version (minus the slightly extra bulk) which won’t be making an appearance on store shelves is nicely designed and looks much like smartphones that are on the market today. Gone is the large front bottom bezel which seems to have been moved to the back of the device. With the front bottom bezel now out of the way, the front of the redesigned version of Ara looks to be very much at home with current smartphone designs.
On the back of the newly designed developer version of Ara, there are six places to fit removable modules and a 3×2 block on the bottom of the device which seems to contain a battery. At the I/O presentation Rafa Camargo, Technical and Engineering Lead explain that “we’ve integrated the phone technology in the frame” of Ara, this points to the entire SOC which includes the main components such as: CPU, GPU and RAM chip, storage, wireless connectivity chips etc, all of these are connected within the frame allowing module slots to function similar to USB plug and play devices on Windows.
In his presentation Rafa Camargo also mentioned that Ara has six removable module slots which is two short of the eight slots that were on the previous Spiral 2 version of Ara. The device that was demoed (developer version) didn’t seem to have a removable display module and the battery was fixed in place at the bottom back of the device. The photo showing the design of the upcoming consumer version of Ara shows only a side view of the device’s design, but we are pretty sure that there has to be a removable display module in the final version which should increase removable modules count to 7 or 8 if they also decide to make a removable bottom section that we see on the back of the device which contains the battery.
We should note that the structural frame of Ara will definitely receive fresh redesigns and updates over time, after Ara’s consumer version is released, and like current smartphones, we expect to see lots of changes and upgrades happening to the frame. The Ara modules will be future proof and backwards compatible, so the footprint of modules and module slots should remain the same when newer frames are made.
Module Connection Interface
We’ve heard that The Ara team was going to do away with the much hyped electropermanent magnet which was a big part of how the modules were connected in Spiral 2 version of Ara, and now we see full proof of this along with new design of the redesigned module connection interface.
We’ve now gone from a twelve square pins connection interface on spiral two to a connector which contains inline pins. The electromermanent magnets used to hold modules in place on previous version of Ara is now replaced by a kind of latch which is software activated.
This new latch connector should replace complexity of the previous electropermanent magnetic connector and add should also provide a much stronger connection of modules to frame.
Bridging the physical and digital. Imagine the possibilities. ATAP. – Google I/O 2016
Google plans to ship developer edition in the last quarter of the year and the consumer version is expected to ship in 2017. But of course, if these dates are like anything that Google has set for Ara in the past, we have to take them with a dash of salt. But, we’ll have our fingers crossed hoping that Ara’s schedules will finally go as planned.
Seeing the recent progress of Ara was pretty exciting, Google’s pipe dream and now ours, is slowly running down the pipe and soon we’ll all get a chance to hold Google’s modular smartphone which if Google has their way, will be the last smartphone that we will ever purchase, or maybe not, we’ll see.
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