Google’s modular Project Ara smartphone close to completion, will hit Puerto Rico first

project ara close completion launch this year concept
During Google’s second Project Ara Module Developers Conference, project lead Paul Eremenko announced that the build-your-own handset is this much closer to completion. He also told the crowd to expect a soft launch later this year in the United States’ most well-known commonwealth: Puerto Rico.

A much-improved third prototype

According to Google, work on Spiral 2, Ara’s second official prototype, took place since July of last year. However, the next iteration, Spiral 3, will one-up it in several different areas. For one, by way of Engadget, Eremenko said we can expect Spiral 3 to “match or exceed the functionality of a state-of-the-art smartphone today.” By that, he means the new prototype will have 20-30 third-party modules available for developers to play around with.

In addition, you should expect Spiral 3’s battery to last you through the end of the day. The latest prototype will also support high-end camera modules and 4G LTE connectivity, which is quite the step up from Spiral 2’s 3G connectivity.

The biggest change to Spiral 3 is one that you won’t see: The electro-permanent magnets that hold the modules in place are now sent to the endoskeleton. This move was made in order for companies to have more room to work with when it comes to putting in as much functionality into their modules as possible.

Speaking of modules, Eremenko revealed that, while you’ll be able to customize your own Ara device through the Ara Marketplace and Ara Configurator apps, custom designs won’t be made through 3D printing. According to Eremenko, such a process wouldn’t be as fast as Google would like it to be. In its place is what Google calls “dye sublimation,” a process that lets El Goog design polycarbonate shells with high-resolution imagery in a fraction of the time it takes for 3D printing to do the same.

Google hopes to move to the Spiral 3 design sometime during the second quarter of 2015.

Project Ara lanzará en Puerto Rico

If you didn’t realize it yet, the above heading is in Spanish. That’s because Eremenko revealed Project Ara will launch a pilot program in Puerto Rico through partnerships with carriers OpenMobile and Claro later this year.

About 20 to 30 Ara modules sprawling 10 different categories should be ready to go by the time the pilot program launches. As a way for Google to have people try out Ara before plunking down the cash for it, “food-truck” style stores will presumably go through main spots in Puerto Rico to allow people to test one out first.

As reported by the Verge, Google is launching this pilot program as a way to gauge what works with consumers and what doesn’t work, with the goal being to continually improve on the hardware. Moreover, Google wants to gauge how consumers will balance this new paradox of choice for something like the Ara.

“We have to carefully curate and manage the way that choice is presented so as not to overwhelm the consumer,” said Eremenko.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

Fisker failed. But now the EV pioneer is ready for an epic redo

Henrik Fisker has already had a career most executives can only dream about. He designed the BMZ Z8, a couple of Aston Martins, and his own Fisker Karma. But he’s got a plan to disrupt the auto industry, forged by lessons learned over the…
Smart Home

Amazon rejoins the fight against HIV/AIDS with a (Red) second-gen Echo

Now you can rock out to U2 and give to a good cause by buying Amazon's red Echo, a limited edition of the smart speaker that also donates money to the humanitarian organization Project (Red), founded by Bono.
Product Review

Google’s Pixel 3 is a hair away from pocket-sized perfection

Google’s Pixel 3 smartphone is the best Android phone you can buy. It doesn’t have the best looks or the best hardware, but you’ll be hard pressed to find better software and unique A.I. functionalities.
Deals

The best Walmart Black Friday deals in 2018

Walmart has historically been the undisputed king of Black Friday deals. The mega-store is known for offering deals on products in almost every category, from smart TVs to children’s toys. We're combing through every deal as it is…
Mobile

The Google Photos iOS app gets a bit better, now has depth control

Google updated the iOS version of the Google Photos app to now take advantage of the depth data that can be captured by the iPhone's camera in Portrait Mode. The new feature is already available in the Android app.
Mobile

Apple confirms it’s collecting data on foot to improve its Maps app

Apple has been using cars and satellites to improve its Maps app, and it's now confirmed it's also using tech-laden pedestrians to collect data from the streets in a bid to provide better walking directions.
Mobile

T-Mobile-Sprint merger could close as early as first quarter of 2019, exec says

T-Mobile and Sprint are finally merging. After a few failed attempts, the two companies announced their merger at the start of 2018. Once it's complete, the new T-Mobile could be better positioned to take on the likes of Verizon and AT&T.
Social Media

Why an American named John Lewis gets lots of Twitter hassle from Brits

Spare a thought for Twitter user John Lewis. When he signed up as @johnlewis soon after the app launched in 2006, little did he know what he was letting himself in for. Clue: There's a U.K. department store called John Lewis.
Deals

The best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…
Mobile

Selfie-mad Meitu phones are now made by Xiaomi, may be sold globally

Meitu, a Chinese brand best known for its selfie and beautification software, has handed over its smartphone business to Xiaomi. The company now has the global license to produce phones using the Meitu name.
Mobile

Huawei's folding smartphone reportedly will launch at MWC 2019

Huawei will release a folding smartphone with 5G connectivity in 2019, according to the CEO and executives for the company. Rumors are also spreading to take away some of the mystery surrounding the exciting device.
Smart Home

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…
Mobile

Keep your Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus free of smudges with a screen protector

The display on Samsung's Galaxy S8 is gorgeous, but it's not exactly rugged. Thankfully, these screen protectors will help you safeguard your new device from unwanted wear and tear.