Google is always looking to innovate, and with the likes of Project Glass well established and Project Tango looking promising indeed, it now looks like the company’s Project Ara range of smartphones could arrive to the market early next year. With prices touted as low as $50, Project Ara, which is looking to forge something of a build-your-own-smartphone market with devices comprised of interchangeable bits of hardware, is weeks away from its first functional prototype, and sales may begin as soon as Q1 2015.

The smartphone market is as broad and varied as it has ever been. With handsets now retailing in all kinds of sizes, Project Ara would need to appeal to a wide range, and according to a TIME report, there will be three different devices sizes supported in total. Exact measurements haven’t been disclosed, but based on current trends, we can probably expect a smaller specification offering a 4ish-inch display, another larger one of the phablet, 5.5-inch variety, and a further model somewhere in between.

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Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group, which oversees all of these weird and wonderful projects, is said to be focusing its efforts onto the lower-costing option. At $50, the bog-standard device will forgo many common features of the smartphone in general, such as a cellular connection, but with Wi-Fi support, it’s a starting point, and ATAP firmly believes that users will, in turn, spend more money on upgrades in the future.

Indeed, it seems very much as though Google wants users to see the Ara as an investment for the future in a market where devices have a shelf life of one year or less. With prices as low as $50, it’s also ideal for those in emerging markets, and while many – including Apple’s Tim Cook – have doubted Google’s Glass Project as a viable consumer product, one suspects that few will question the potential of Project Ara.

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Ara will be, quite literally, a skeleton, with no significant hardware, and from there, a user will buy various components to create a completely custom experience. In fact, each and every aspect will be moddable, and although Google will be the sole provider of the backbone holding everything together, third parties could easily begin developing their own parts, for a truly customizable smartphone.

We don’t know everything there is to know about Ara just yet, but will learn more over the course of the next couple of months. Nevertheless, the idea of swappable components is a unique, and very intriguing proposition, and if any company is going to successfully pull it off, it’ll be Google.

via RedmondPie

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