Google Wants Its Modular Ara Phone to Cost $50

Google is taking its Ara modular smartphone platform increasingly seriously, and now in interviews with Time it has revealed that it aims to sell a simple version of the phone for as little as $50.

Time has taken a deep dive into Google's modular smartphone, revealing some interesting details along the way. Work on the concept, which follows on from R&D by Phonebloks and Motorola, remains at Google because it kept hold of the Advanced Technology and Projects group when it sold Moto to Lenovo.

It seems Google has ambitious plans for it, too. The Time feature explains that its current plan is to create a "grayphone": a barebones, customizable exoskeleton that initially comes with little more than a screen, a frame and a WiFi radio. The devices should only cost $50 and will be "designed to be sold at convenience stores". From there, users would be able to customize their device however they wanted.

In fact, the upgrade path sounds quirky, too. An on-board app will allow users to tweak soft design elements, and Google's Paul Eremenko told Time that users would rock up to special kiosks to upgrade the physical components. Those kiosks will be designed to fit into shipping containers to be sent around the world, and will contain parts and tools so users can tweak their devices.

It all sounds wildly ambitious, because it is. Indeed, Eremenko says there's a way to go before Google reaches the $50 price point, and it's still unclear if there's huge demand for phones like this. But Time points out that Eremenko wants the project to be "great, not profitable," so perhaps it doesn't matter. Certainly, it isn't idle speculation: Google is even holding an Ara developers conference this Spring, so it's clearly taking the whole project seriously. It's going to be exciting to see what comes of it. [Time]

Image by Google ATAP