Google’s Project Ara conference is well on its way and now we’re getting a more solid idea of what the modular smartphone will be like. Aside from pushing the target dates just a bit deeper into 2015, it seems that Google is also toying around with the idea of extending the project to the next logical step: tablets.
Google has, perhaps wisely, decided to push back the launch of the Project Ara “gray phone”, the first modular smartphone that Google is planning to make available even in convenience stores for $50 a pop. Instead of the Q1 2015 launch we reported on before, it will be the beta that will be launched in January 2015, while the alpha is expected to go out next month. This extension was made to ensure that the proper pieces are in place and certifications have been met, as well as to make room for two more developer conferences in July and September. And yes, the gray phone will indeed be gray to really force users to customize their device, unless, of course, they actually prefer it that way.
Though not exactly explicitly stated, Google’s slides briefly revealed visions of taking Project Ara beyond a smartphone but also to other mobile and wearable devices, including, you guessed it, a tablet. While seemingly logical, a tablet will also take a bit more work, especially considering the size. But perhaps the biggest factor to consider is time. The ATAP group, which is spearheading work on Project Ara, is normally given only two years to take a project from conception to completion. That time will be up in April 2015, probably just around the gray phone’s retail launch. The future of a modular tablet will most likely hinge on how well the smartphone performs in the market and how Google will decide to proceed in establishing Project Ara as a more formal group inside the company.
Unfortunately, not all information revealed today about this highly idealistic modular smartphone is good. While Project Ara seems like a pipedream about to become reality, there will necessarily be a price to pay, even if it’s not monetary. These costs will boil down to size, weight, and power consumption, which the Project Ara team is continually working on to bring down as much as they can. At the moment, they are still above a one-third overhead but their goal is to reach just one-fourth. That might seem like a significant reduction, but it does mean that a Project Ara phone might be 25 percent larger, heavier, and more power hungry than most smartphones today. That, however, might be a price some will be willing to pay for a device that they theoretically won’t have to replace every 2 years.