Want Google's modular smartphone Project Ara? Apply for a model now!

Project Ara is the exciting modular smartphone being developed by Google and Motorola, and if you fancy getting your hands on a model, the good news is that now you can! The bad news is that not just anyone is going to be given a copy. If you can prove to Google that you’ve got what it takes to make something amazing with Project Ara, they’ll send you a developer model. Otherwise, you’re waiting for release day in early 2015 like the rest of us.

Applicants have to submit a brief overview of their idea for an Ara module, along with the targeted users and potential market. Hopefuls also have to provide a estimated schedule of activities planned to develop the module, their source of funding, and need to describe previous projects that they’ve worked on.

Google says “We will prioritize requests based on technical experience and the strength of your module concept.”

Google provides the following information on what to expect from the applications process:

  • Applications will be reviewed in stages; the current review period ends on July 17, 2014, 11:59pm PDT (July 18 06:59 GMT).
  • The next review period will start on July 18 and end on August 17, 2014.
  • You will receive a notification via email one week after the review period ends.
  • If approved, dev boards will be shipped to you starting in late July 2014.
  • Documentation for the dev boards is available at projectara.com/dev-boards/, you may also email ara-dev@google.com for additional support requests.

There are also restrictions on some countries in the world. Google says “We cannot ship dev boards to the following countries: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria”, although if you live in some of those countries, not getting an early version of Project Ara is probably the least of your problems.

Project Ara was first unveiled by Google subsidiary Motorola in October of last year. It was announced that Motorola and Google were working together with startup Phonebloks on a modular smartphone that could be dismantled by the user and put back together with different parts. Is this the future of smartphone design?

Project Ara, as the initiative is called, is a scheme designed to test the viability of the Phonebloks concept: "a free, open hardware platform." It uses the idea of the online app store, and applies it to the components of the phone itself. The Ara will have removable modules that allow users to customise, replace or upgrade parts of the phone without buying a new one.

Motorola claims it wants to give users to ability "to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it's made of, how much it costs, and how long you'll keep it."

For instance, a user who wants to take high-quality photos on their phone could invest in a powerful camera module, while users who don't care so much could save the money.

Modules would be user-designed and peer-reviewed on the module store, so users would know which modules will work best for them.

The first Ara Developers Conference was held April 15-16, 2014 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. The official livestream recording from the conference can be found here.