Google aims to have the first smartphone designed as part of its Project Ara modular smartphone program on sale in January 2015. The so-called "gray phone" will cost around $50 to make and will be an entry-level phone, with prices determined by commerce partners.
Google is working on a high-end modular phone with a $500 production cost, with final prices to be determined by partners, according to Paul Eremenko, the head of Project Ara within Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group. Google unveiled its roadmap at the first Project Ara developer conference Tuesday.
"The existing way of making smartphones is mature. But there are new ways of making phones," Kaigham Gabriel, deputy director of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects Group, which is behind Ara, told the Wall Street Journal.
Via Project Ara, Google effectively wants to give end users the ability to retrofit and continually customize the hardware of their smartphones. The core of Ara is an endoskeleton (endo) and modules. The endo is the structural frame that holds all the modules in place. A module can be anything from a new chipset, display, keyboard or sensor. The project is similar in many ways to Phonebloks, a venture unveiled in September, and Google is working with Dave Hakkens, the creator of Phonebloks.
Each module of the phone would be responsible for a particular function, such as the wireless antenna, battery or camera. Google controls the design of the endoskeleton, while third-party developers will design the modules.
Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group, or ATAP, is led by Regina Dugan, a former DARPA chief; ATAP will not be part of Google's $2.91 billion deal to sell Motorola to Lenovo.