The Wall Street Journal reports that Google (GOOGL) is working on an ambitious idea to create open hardware platform smartphones that consumers can easily customize by themselves.
Known as Project Ara, these upgradeable smartphones would begin as simple metal skeletons, or ‘Endoskeletons’ as Google calls them, where small rectangular blocks, called modules, can be slotted into Endos metal frame.
Once bought, each of these swappable blocks which will be held in place by magnets and would perform a particular task, can be slid into and out of a phone’s metal frame depending on what the consumer wants and needs. These modules can theoretically be anything, from a new camera, to a new display, to a new wireless antenna, really anything devs come up with. The only thing Google controls is the design of the skeleton, while the plug-and-play development of modules will be left to outside devs.
Realizing the potential of an open-source modular smartphone ecosystem, Google’s Endo aims to accomplish for hardware what Android has done for software. If such a project can be realized, it would not only advance innovation and drive down costs, but most importantly would allow consumers to do whatever they want with their smartphones, rather than remain limited by device makers.
“You may want a blood-sugar monitor and a cigarette lighter on your phone. Why should you not have that?,” Kaigham Gabriel, deputy director of Google’s ATPR Group, which developed the concept for the phone, said to the Journal.
Google didn’t say how much it will charge for the build-it yourself modular phone, but based on its plans as of early 2014 it expects the first Ara smartphones to go on sale in the first quarter of FY2015.