Project Ara video offers a tantalizing peek at Google's modular smartphone

Project Ara developers at Google's Mountain View headquarters.

Above: Project Ara developers at Google's Mountain View headquarters.

Image Credit: Google / YouTube
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Google’s Project Ara smartphone appears to be coming along nicely.

Google has released a new video that spotlights the team behind the build-it-yourself smartphone initiative, offering a few tantalizing details on the modular device ahead of its Ara Developer Conference in mid-April.

The video shows off an early prototype of the Ara’s main module, the Endo, which houses the other modules. They slide into the silver frame and stick in place thanks to electro-permanent magnets, which means an app can secure or unlock phone components. As a result, the phone doesn’t require a case.

“We ended up deciding that embracing this block and modular aesthetic was part of the phone — let’s not hide it, let’s not put it behind the cover,” said Daniel Makoski, head of design for Google’s advanced technology and projects group. “This phone can flow and adapt just as much as our lives flow and adapt, and that in itself is an aesthetic.”

The custom phone “blocks” shown off by manufacturing partner 3D Systems suggest that consumers will be able to design and modify their own modules.

Google says it’s looking to release a basic $50 Ara Wi-Fi unit (without a cellular connection) by next year. The idea is that owners of that very basic phone will be able to plug in more advanced modules over time. It’s a phone that grows to suit the user — in stark contrast to our smartphones of today, which often force consumers to adapt to them.

Google Project Ara 2

Google sold most of Motorola to Lenovo for $2.9 billion earlier this year, but it held on to Motorola’s advanced technology group, which developed Ara and Project Tango, a 3D mapping phone project.

The first Ara Developer Conference will take place on April 15 and 16 in Mountain View, Calif.

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