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Project Ara smartphone coming this year, will ‘match or exceed’ modern phones

Google’s Project Ara Module Developers Conference is wrapping up in California, and we’ve heard all about Google’s high expectation levels for the project – although we’re still a little sketchy on an actual UK price and release date.

The last we heard from Google’s Project Ara, a modular smartphone which you can build yourself from individual chunks that you slot together, was last October when Google set up a marketplace for the components to be sold. However, Google is currently hosting a Project Ara Module Developers Conference over in the US, where a few more details have trickled out – including Google’s high expectation levels for the project.

For Project Ara to be a success, Google is hoping to fulfil two main criteria. First, there should be at least 20 to 30 third-party modules available for users to choose from at launch, be it bolt-on camera lenses, heart rate monitors or back-up batteries. Secondly, Project Ara phones should ‘match or exceed’ the functionality of current smartphone capabilities.

The examples cited by project lead Paul Eremenko included at least day-long battery life (although he reckoned a battery swap might be needed to achieve this at first), 4G support and a ‘state-of-the-art camera’.

Just twenty four hours of life with a battery swap midway through the day doesn’t really seem like a match for modern phones to us. However, the ability to quickly and easily swap out dead batteries does appeal, providing the secondary battery packs aren’t a rip-off.

More intriguing is the ability to build any kind of phone you like, and replace busted parts like a broken screen. Google teased a few cool ideas at the end of the conference, including the ability to go all night-vision with a camera bolt-on. Maybe it’s the 15-year-old kid in us, but that sounds like the kind of pointless gizmo that we’d instantly fall in love with.

Sadly Google is still being sketchy with UK pricing and release dates. We can understand the lack of pricing, as the base cost of your Project Ara phone will depend on what modules you eventually opt for. As for when, Google reckons it’ll throw out pilot devices to market in 2015 – a vague estimate at best, and not great considering the phones were supposed to be launched properly this month.

Of course, our favourite part of the conference was when the hapless Eremenko fielded a question from an online viewer, who called himself ‘W.T. Foch’. Whoops.

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