Project Ara gets January 2015 street date as developer conference kicks off

Project Ara

Google’s ATAP contingent, retained during the sale of Motorola to Lenovo, has been producing some wondrous things these past few months. And “months” is the key word here, because the team has been working very, very quickly.

In addition to Project Tango, which purports to combine a number of cameras and sensors on a standard Android smartphone to facilitate 3D mapping of its immediate location, ATAP has been working on Ara, not so much a smartphone as a worldview. The idea of the modular smartphone, which uses sets of inputs in three predetermined sizes, 1×1, 1×2 and 2×2, has intrigued an industry eager not only for innovation, but cheaper products.

During Ara’s first developer conference this week, team leaders talked about bringing the first devices to market in January 2015, in a so-called Grey Phone format: a very basic extensible design that, for $50, provides basic battery, screen and WiFi, with lots of space for buying other modules. The goal is to set the price low enough for practically anyone to buy a device that works well enough, with the potential for additional functionality down the road.

Customers will also be able to design and order an Ara device using a configurator tool similar to Motorola’s Moto Maker, which debuted with the Moto X last year.