World gets first glimpse of working build-it-yourself phone

30 Oct 2014

The first Project Ara working prototype. Image via Phonebloks.

With the announcement of dates for the second developer conference for Google’s Project Ara, the world got its first glimpse of a working prototype that allows the owner to take out and replace components like Lego.

With dates for the second conference confirmed for 14 January and 21 January next year, the focus of this conference, according to Google, will be on the next major release of the Ara Module Developers Kit (MDK) – version 0.20 – that will detail the changes that could make the next generation of Android phones incredibly personal devices.

The project was first announced back in February this year as part of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group which now remains the only team left from Google’s original purchase of Motorola following its subsequent sale to Lenovo.

For the average consumer, the final version of the Ara phone would come as a base model with a screen, but allowing total consumer choice as to what its spec may be.

For example, someone may wish to have an affordable and basic phone, while another could want the latest drives, RAM and hardware, with both options being available to either person on the same build.

Perhaps most interesting for those viewing the conferences over satellite link will be the demoing of their latest functional Ara prototype and other hardware with their confirmation that there could be an early market pilot soon after the conferences.

Teams of developers had been eager to see a prototype in action at last June’s Google I/O conference but unfortunately there was nothing to showcase.

To whet our appetite however until next year, Phonebloks were able to gain access to one company working with Project Ara, NK Labs, who were able to show the first example of the build-it-yourself phone and how simple it would be when released to change important components.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic