arabackGoogle might have sold Motorola, but it turns out it hung onto the part of the company that’s been working on its Project Ara modular smartphone design. Time has an extensive feature about the project: turns out that Google is looking at creating a bare-bones design that would sell for as little as $50 for the base unit—possibly something that could be sold in convenience stores, much like pre-paid phones are now.

The base unit would be little more than a screen, a frame, and a wi-fi radio; about like a low-end iPod Touch I suppose. You’d have to buy other components to upgrade it, at kiosks that would contain the necessary parts. They’re also looking at using 3D printing for some components.

Project Ara will support three sizes of phone frame—mini, medium, and the phablet-sized jumbo. Needless to say, these phones, especially the “jumbo” size, could make great e-reading devices. They hope to be able to make it commercially available within a year or two.

It’s certainly an interesting idea, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing how well it works. On the other hand, given the problems some have pointed out with the approach, it’s easy to be skeptical.

(Found via Gizmodo.)


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