What is Project Ara?

By Ryan Koss

In 2013, design student Dave Hakkens submitted his final project, which he called “Phonebloks,” with the intention of “encouraging the development and production of products that produce less electronic waste.” After an overwhelmingly positive reaction from his classmates, Hakkens decided to upload his concept to YouTube. It wasn’t long before tech giants like Motorola and Google heard about the concept and partnered with Hakkens to bring his vision to life.

What is Project Ara?
Project Ara is the codename for Google’s efforts toward developing a universal modular smartphone ecosystem “designed exclusively for 6 billion people.” In other words, Google is building a phone for everyone.

Spiral 2 Prototype

Project Ara’s second prototype, the “Spiral 2,” can be assembled in seconds.

At its core, the Project Ara prototype consists of an endoskeleton which can be tailored by users through the addition of modules – small building blocks which power the customizable features and functions of the device. With this, Google envisions a future where consumers have the power to swap and upgrade components at will.

Need a faster processor? No problem. Snap a new one in and you’re good to go. Or do you want to use your device to play your new favorite album? Just add a new speaker and you’ll be feeling the bass in no time. Simply put, Project Ara is designed to give users what they need when they need it.

The Modular Future
Project Ara represents a fundamental shift in the way that we think about the smartphone. In the near future, consumers will no longer purchase a new device for its fancy fingerprint scanner or heart-rate monitor. Instead, users will have the ability to choose their desired features and purchase them in the form of modules.


Module covers can be personalized using your favorite photos or designs.

Currently, e-waste (electronic waste) represents 2 percent of America’s trash in landfills – and is the fastest growing municipal waste stream in America. With a modular ecosystem like Project Ara, annual device releases from companies like Samsung and Apple could become a thing of the past, helping to reduce waste on a global level. With an average lifetime of only 18 months, it is expected that 140 million cell phones will be tossed into landfills this year.

With an infinitely upgradable mobile platform, Project Ara has the potential to curb the growing amount of e-waste while providing consumers with a truly personalized experience.

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