Project Ara is based on the idea that you should be able to assemble a smartphone around different modules, swapping components at will. That may sound a lot like LG's G5, which lets you replace the bottom of the smartphone with parts like a camera module with dedicated shutter controls, but Ara's approach is a lot more complex. The design Google showed off has slots for six modules.
Swapping in those different parts will let you easily tailor the functionality of your phone to your liking. More important, Google argues, it means you can replace outdated components of your phone with newer parts while keeping the phone itself, thus extending the life cycle of your mobile devices.
In a demo done at this year’s I/O conference, a Google engineer inserted a camera module onto a phone that could take a photo without rebooting. That's a vast improvement over last year’s demo where the Ara phone had to reboot before the camera module would work. Removing the module is simply a matter of using a voice command or selecting an eject option from settings. The prototype looks fairly compact if the modules themselves sport a blocky appearance — like a Tetris board if you could use it to make phone calls.
Google has already lined up some partners to develop Ara modules, including Panasonic and TDK among a host of others. And it hopes the release of a developer kit will bring along even more modules, which could include everything from health monitoring to navigation.