Google details Project Ara Spiral 2 prototype smartphone, set for public launch this year
Google detailed a new prototype of its Project Ara modular smartphone initiative during the handset’s dedicated Developers Conference earlier this week. The firm plans to publicly launch its first Project Ara smartphones in Puerto Rico in the second half of this year.
The Spiral 2 model is publicised as the first Project Ara device that will be commercially available, and Google’s Ara partners, Toshiba and Marvell, also made some announcements of their own during the conference. The two firms took the wraps off their own modules that are available for the Spiral 2 hardware platform, with Toshiba announcing three camera modules and Marvell focusing mainly on its ARMv8 processors.
Toshiba’s camera modules include a 2MP module that could be integrated in the top “media bar” in the front of the phone, in addition to the 5MP and 13MP modules that will be available for the back of the handset. The 13MP module which will be available later this year will support ultra-high-frame rate up to 900fps with a QVGA resolution, and up to 240fps with a 1080p resolution. The firm also adds that it is working on building other types of modules for Project Ara, such as WiFi modules, display modules, activity measuring modules and other wireless communication modules.
Marvell on the other hand, announced the quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex A53 CPU called PXA 1928, available for the Spiral 2 model with an OpenGL ES 3.0-capable GPU that can do 1080p video streaming at 60 fps. It is also working on a chip called PXA 1936, an octa-core 1.5GHz Cortex A53 CPU which it hopes to have ready for the Ara platform. Much like Toshiba, Marvell also announced that it is working on other types of modules.
The search giant has set to debut the handset in Puerto Rico where its first market test will be conducted. The handsets will be distributed through a number of “mobile “food truck”-style stores” in order to allow the device to reach as many users as possible. For those wondering over the location choice, Google said it was selected because the country is a “mobile first” area, with more than 3 million active mobile phones. Furthermore, over 75% of Internet access in the country is done through mobile devices.
Here’s what the firm said regarding its decision:
“The carrier landscape is diverse and competitive with U.S., Latin American, and local carriers. As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico is under FCC jurisdiction so we would continue our work with the FCC on a regulatory approach for Ara. Puerto Rico is a gateway from the U.S. to the world…It is well-connected as a communications, logistics and trade hub. It has designated free trade zones which we can use for importing modules from developers worldwide. University of Puerto system (all 11 campuses) have joined the ATAP Multi-University Research Agreement (MURA) which provides an agile and flexible mechanism for engaging individual faculty and labs in research to support Ara and other ATAP projects.”
Specifications of the new model include a 720p 1280×720 display, dual application processors (Marvell PXA1928 and NVIDIA Tegra K1), 5MP camera, 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. Unfortunately, battery life on the device may disappoint as the Ara will only pack a battery that’s 20-30% smaller than an average smartphone battery.
Google will make 11 working modules available to buyers initially, and aims to reach as many as 30 options by the end of the year. The next prototype, Spiral 3 will offer a better camera, battery life and 4G LTE support. An inductive system contactless data between modules will also be included. The retail cost of the device has yet been specified, but it will depend on the additional features. We will update you once a release date is available.