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Google Lifts The Veil On Modular $50 Cellphone Concept

on Thursday, Feb. 27th

Remember Phonebloks, the modular cellphone concept by design student Dave Hakkens that got the ‘net buzzing last year?

Well it turns out that Motorola Mobility’s R&D division was working on something similar. Even though Google has sold off Motorola to Lenovo, but it held on to the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group that works in the really wild stuff, like Project Tango, the room scanning tech. This week Google gave Time’s Techland an in-depth look at the Phonebloks style  concept they’ve dubbed Project Ara, ahead of a developer’s conference they intend to hold.

Perhaps the biggest news? The price.

Ara also speaks to an overarching issue near to Google’s heart: the need to help get another five billion people on the Internet, by bringing it to individuals in developing nations in affordable forms tailored to their needs. The first expression of the modular concept Ara’s creators are focusing on is a smartphone with a target price of $50 that’s so basic it comes with only Wi-Fi, not a cellular connection. Unlike the bargain-basement “feature phones” such a handset would replace, this wouldn’t be a technological anachronism. As its owner’s needs evolved and budget permitted, new modules would make it better and better and better.

As for Hakkens? He’s working with the ATAP group, although his official position is that he’s supportive of all modular concepts. So Google.

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