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Google looking to develop customisable smartphones

Project Ara is developing a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones

Web giant Google is developing an open hardware platform which would allow users to create, modular customised smartphones.

Project Ara is led by Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, and promises “to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software”. The aim is to create a third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation and substantially compress development timelines.

“Our goal is to drive a more thoughtful, expressive, and open relationship between users, developers, and their phones,” Paul Eremenko, part of the Project Ara Team explained in a blog post. “To give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it’s made of, how much it costs, and how long you’ll keep it.”

The design for Project Ara consists of what Google calls an endoskeleton and modules.  The endo is the structural frame that holds all the modules in place. A module can be anything, from a new application processor to a new display, keyboard or an extra battery.

The firm added it is looking to develop a phone platform that is modular, open, customisable, and “made for the entire world”. It is working with “build your own smartphone” provider Phonebloks on the project.

“We’ve done deep technical work. Dave [Hakkens, the creator of Phonebloks] created a community. The power of open requires both.  So we will be working on Project Ara in the open, engaging with the Phonebloks community throughout our development process, as well as asking questions to our Project Ara research scouts (volunteers interested in helping us learn about how people make choices),” Eremenko added. “In a few months, we will also send an invitation to developers to start creating modules for the Ara platform. We anticipate an alpha release of the Module Developer’s Kit (MDK) sometime this winter.”

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