Google has released a Module Development Kit for its Project Ara modular smartphone, and it has confirmed a number of exciting facts about the upcoming devices.
As you might imagine, the 81-page document (which can be downloaded here) is fairly tech-heavy, but combing through it reveals some very cool information. For example, each phone frame – Google has dubbed these “Endos”, because they’re endoskeletons – can support multiple battery units, and charge all of them simultaneously.
As suggested by the Ara introductory video we saw last week, there will be three sizes of Endo, with the larger frames supporting more modules. Each Endo has a central “spine” that cannot be crossed by a module, but aside from that you can place them almost anywhere. The document mentions modules for batteries, Wi-Fi, chargers, displays, speakers, cameras and even a thermal imager (think Predator vision). There can even be modules that extend far past the boundaries of the Endo, such as a pulse oximeter (used for measuring oxygen levels in the bloodstream).
Where Endos have free module space, users will be able to 3D print spacer modules to fill the gaps. You’ll also be able to fully customise Ara shells before purchase, having them 3D printed to a “consumer-grade” level by a third-party.
Once you’ve purchased your Endo, you’ll be able to order new parts online (the Google Play Store being the likely source).
This new information isn’t exactly surprising, but it’s confirmation of what we had been hoping for: a modular phone that is truly flexible, fully customisable and unlikely to collapse into obsolescence in the space of a year or two.
Google is holding its first developer conference for Project Ara next week, on 15th April – and we’ll almost certainly find out even more about its potential then. Stay tuned.