Initially Ara phone was supposed to consist of an aluminum frame with the slots for modules, attached to the endo via electropermanent magnets. Modules, like display, receiver, microphone were supposed to be attached to the front of the endo. Other functional modules, like camera, processor, battery, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, etc. – to the rear side of the endo.
But now, after Google’s I/O 2016, the company announced that the screen, antennas, CPU, and battery are to be locked into the base frame. This change is based on several reasons. Integrating key components into the base frame of the phone leaves more room for other modules and saves a lot of design troubles. Also, according to the Ara team research, most people don’t care, or don’t even know which processor they have. Today, once the most smartphones have advanced specs, people don’t require more speed or memory, but more hardware functions.
A shape-shifting nitinol memory alloy will be used instead of electropermanent magnets (as planned earlier) to handle the modules in the corresponding slots. When a current passes, the connectors contract, and the connection becomes robust. Also, it can be controlled electronically with the help of software (special application or by saying “Okay Google, eject the camera”). Nitinol memory alloy connectors take less space inside the module, allowing developers more to work with.
Initially the Ara phone was supposed to have three sizes: small – 45x118x9.7mm (about the size of classic Nokia 3310); medium – 68x141x9.7mm (about the size of Samsung Galaxy S5); big – 91x164x9.7mm (slightly bigger than iPhone 6 Plus).
Now we know that dimentions will differ, but Google hasn’t finalized the exact specs, although it’s known that the screen size is 5.3 inches.
Ara modules are standardized, meaning the user can plug any module into any slot where it fits. The frame contains six slots, and the modules have shape of 1×2 rectangles or 2×2 squares.
In the promo video, released by Google recently, we see a variety of modules:
– e-ink display for notifications or glanceable information;
– camera modules with different lenses and/or sensors;
– speaker and microphone arrays;
– a kickstand;
– programmable touch-sensitive module;
– nonfunctional “style” modules;
– fingerprint reader.
For sure, in future we will see many more modules with different functinalities and various features.
Ara phones come in three sizes: big, medium and small. At the picture below you can see the back of the phone divided into 1×1 squares.
All Ara phones consist of 1×1, 1×2 and 2×2 modules with the sizes of approximately 22x22mm, 22x44mm and 44x44mm respectively. So the length and width of the modules are strictly predefined.
Big Ara phone has five 2×2 modules and four 1×2 modules.
Medium Ara phone has two 2×2 modules, two 1×2 modules, two 2×1 modules and two 1×1 modules.
Small Ara phone has four 2×1 modules and two 1×1 modules.
However, modules may have different thickness depending on module purpose and size of hardware under the module shell. For example, it might be an extra-big battery, or a module with advanced photo camera.
Display of the phone will also be replaceable. So in case of damaging it users will be able to simply buy a new one and slide it in.
All modules are attached to the metal spine of the phone called ‘endoskeleton‘. Modules slide in and attach to the slots of the endoskeleton with help of electro-permanent magnets.