Google to ship first Project Ara developer boards in July

Google will hold its second Project Ara developer conference in November

By , IDG News Service |  Hardware

Having nailed the basics of its ambitious Project Ara customizable smartphone, Google is now engaging the hardware developer community to add versatility to the handset.

To that end, Google next month will start shipping developer boards on which snap-on modules can be prototyped and tested, the company said in a blog entry.

With Project Ara, Google is looking to provide a build-your-own smartphone with which users can mix and match features. Buyers will get an empty phone frame with a screen, and can snap modular parts on and off the back of the handset to add or remove desired hardware features. Google's board could spark the development of Lego-like modules for the US$50 smartphone, which will start shipping early next year.

Google has already given examples of detachable antenna and camera modules, but developers are proposing storage, dock, gaming pad, RF transmitters and thermometer modules.

Developers can apply to get a developer board on Google's website. The first application period will end on July 11, and the first version of the board will ship by the end of July. A new application period for the second version of the board will start on July 12, which will end in September. The updated board will ship in the fall.

"Since we only have limited quantities of developer hardware, we ask that you please tell us about how you plan to use it," Google said on a Project Ara developer board page.

Google also said it will hold its second Project Ara developer conference at the end of November. Leading up to the conference, the company will release a prototype Project Ara smartphone based on an ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) in October. Google has said it would hand out 100 free smartphones to beta testers.

Project Ara was started by Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility in October last year with the goal of offering a highly customizable smartphone based on open hardware. Motorola Mobility was later acquired by Lenovo, but Google retained the Project Ara effort, which is now part of the company's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) division.

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