Google’s hotly anticipated modular smartphone could be available to consumers in early 2015, with a price tag as low as $50 (£30).
Designed to disrupt dominant smartphone market players like Apple and Samsung, Google’s Project Ara ‘Grey Phone’ will be available in its simplest form with several standard features that can be easily upgraded by adding new components.
Modules will come with a frame, screen, Wi-Fi connection and processor. The other components – camera, speakers, and GPS for example – will be available to mix and match, making them highly customisable and adaptable to the user’s changing needs over time.
Google is also hoping to entice both hardware and software developers to get involved to help attract new users and make the project a success.
Speaking at a conference, the head of Project Ara, Paul Eremenko, told audiences: "We want to be as helpful but as hands-off as possible for the development of the ecosystem," implying more advanced features would be left to third-party developers to innovate and add to the central frame of the Grey Phone.
The ambitious project, made possible by Google’s purchase of Motorola and its Advanced Technology and Projects group, has the potential to revolutionise the way mobile phones are built and sold if it proves a popular concept with consumers.
Users will be able to make decisions about features that are most important to them, for example choosing a larger battery over a better camera.
By changing individual components one at a time, Google hopes users will simply upgrade features as new technologies become available rather than investing in an entirely new phone.
The project is not without its challenges, however. Fierce competition in the market continues to bring smartphone prices down, purchasing upgraded features for a modular phone may add unwanted expense, and each new piece will make the Grey Phone heavier while competitors will continue to release lighter and lighter handsets.