Google's modular smartphone Project Ara gets one step closer

Google is sending out hardware for Project Ara, which will let you build a personalised phone from a selection of bolt-together elements.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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Google is sending out Project Ara hardware to developers cooking up parts for the hotly-anticipated modular smartphone.

Project Ara is a plan for a modular smartphone from the bods at Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group, the California-based search engine's research and development brain trust. You'll build your phone from modules you choose, each module a square of varying size that attaches to the phone with electro-permanent magnets.

Watch this: Google's Project Ara wants to be your smartphone

Developers are working on creating their own hardware modules to give Ara a range of options, allowing you to create a custom phone with only the elements and hardware you want.

Google has now opened for those developers to request a Module Developers Kit, as shown off by the Big G at April's developer conference. The kit contains circuit boards that will allow developers to test their modules. The best module will scoop the Project Ara Developer Prize Challenge and win $100,000 for its creator.

Interested developers have until this Thursday, 17 July, to get their applications for an MDK in to Google. The first of those lucky devs selected could get their hands on the kits before the end of the month, while a second round of applications will be delivered on 17 August.

Google has also revealed to developers plans for new dev hardware based on the v0.20 MDK platform to follow the current kit, based on the v0.11 release. The new hardware will use ASICs instead of FPGAs for UniPro network processing. That hardware will be available after the second developers' conference, which is scheduled for November 2014.

The final phone is set to go on sale to the public in January 2015 for around $50, which converts to £30/AU$55.

Other modular mobiles in the pipeline include the ZTE Eco-Mobius concept phone , while camera manufacturer Ricoh tried out a modular GXR camera system a few years ago.