Right now, there’s a war to make the thinnest smartphone in the world. Google is a part of that with Android and with its Nexus devices. But it’s also attacking the very idea of smartphones as we know them with Project Ara: a project to build a phone that doesn’t cram everything into the smallest package, but one that lets you pick out and swap every important component. It’s a lot like the way many desktop computers still work — but for your pocket.
The Verge got their hands on a very, very early version of a Project Ara device. It’s come a long way since its introduction in 2013, and even more since Google showed it off at its developer conference last year. Now it looks less like something that came out of a 3D printer, and more like something you could actually use. Even so, it still has many months to go before you’ll be able to go to a store and buy it.
This prototype is currently in what Google calls “Spiral 2,” which is a second major milestone in what the company originally envisioned as a two-year process. The advancements in this one include planned support for 3G networks, along with the framework for a marketplace where users will be able to find and purchase extra modules. On stage today at the second Project Ara Developers Conference just down the road from Google’s Mountain View headquarters, we saw it working with a 720p display module and receiver module attached the front, while the space for eight modules on the back included things like a camera, battery, and microUSB adapter. These are slotted into both sides of the phone, where they will stay put using electro-permanent magnets, though in these prototype versions they simply slide in.
For more on Project Ara, check out full coverage over on The Verge.