Google’s modular Project Ara concept design is coming along at a breakneck pace. In just a matter of months, the notion of a modular smartphone went from “what a neat idea,” to “oh, that conceptual render looks pretty nice,” to “holy crap, are they actually making this thing?” Sure enough, it’s all coming together, and by now we’re just days away from the first Ara developer’s conference. As far as the hardware goes, we’ve seen this slide-into-place, magnetically-attached exoskeleton business over and over, but when’s that going to transition from a testing bed to a usable, fully-functioning smartphone? In a new MIT article, we learn that a working Ara prototype is expected to be ready later this month.
That’s a big step for Ara, as this is the kind of wildly ambitious project that can sound really great on paper, but hit unexpected speed bumps when it gets out into the real world. Just how well will those electropermanent magnets hold all of Ara’s modules in place? Even with the magnets holding, will the dozens of little spring-loaded contacts maintain their signals as users jostle the handset around? Will Ara’s RF shielding sufficiently isolate all these disparate components from interference? A trial by fire might be just what Ara needs, and based on this report, it could be getting started quite soon.
Even with this progress, Ara has a long way to go before it’s anywhere near ready for commercial deployment, and we’ve got a few more dev conferences to go between now and then. Be sure to check in with us next week to learn about any juicy details revealed at the first such one, kicking off on April 15.