First came the official announcement that Google’s Project Ara will be coming soon. It’s the first build it yourself smartphone from the tech giant, and starts at just $50 for a base model “skeleton.” Higher end bases can be scored for $500, which is a paltry sum if you have your eye on the grand prize: A sweet $100,000 for the tech geek who comes up with the most awesome model. Ara is slated to hit the shelves January 2015, so you have plenty of time to start dreaming up the perfect phone while keeping an eye out for the modules you need to make it happen.
However, Google warns that it’s going to take some serious skills and creativity to get the top prize and there aren’t many restrictions. While having a great high-megapixel camera installed along with memory expansion will be nice, especially for snapping those Instagram photos and storing them, it’s going to take more than that to earn six figures. There will probably be a lot of competition, but one thing’s certain: This is an excellent way to get more buzz (and sales) going for Ara.
Toshiba has already offered up some inspiration with a fitness module that’s fitness related, detachable and can be embedded into a phone so there’s no more carrying around smartphones on your long run days. If you simply want to track basic activity data, the Toshiba tracker can be popped into the Ara phone to make that easy. However, once again, something this simple isn’t going to be worth the big bucks. Competitors need to think outside the box.
Perhaps Project Ara started of as just another smartphone that appealed to the LEGO crowd, and maybe you thought it would be a good device for posting on Facebook on the go to drum up content promotion or shop for that new must-have toy. But now it’s a mission, and a number of companies are already clamoring to offer modules that fit into Ara. For example, Globalstar says they’re creating a module for satellite connections, and other companies are developing sensors to track data for just about everything (including blood samples).
The winning ticket
Google says the entries will consider a variety of criteria, but one of the major ones is whether or not a module can do what’s already available on other smartphones. In other words, if you basically create a Nokia Lumia (shock free, preferably), favorite tablet or other device, that’s not going to score any points with the judges. Google will also be looking at commercial appeal and the likelihood that a phone will make a difference in society and mobile computing. Of course, elegance and usability won’t be overlooked either.
Already, Google has dished up an MDK and documentation you need to start the project even though the skeletons aren’t even close to being market ready. The company says that by the end of May 2014, hopefully a “few hundred prototype devices” will be available to help geeks get their development on. Only a handful of lucky ones will get their hands on these prototypes, but you can start planning now.