​Early Project Ara modules revealed as prototypes rumoured to go on show this month

Google's Project Ara looks to be gathering steam ahead of this year's MWC show.

2015-02-17-11-30-23-am.png
Toshiba

As Google prepares to market test its Project Ara phones, the company's partners have showed off some of the first modules for the handset.

Project Ara is a unit within Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group that the search giant held on to after selling its Motorola smartphone business to Lenovo. Google is currently working on the third iteration of the Project Ara base unit, known as the Spiral 3, which is expected to be used in its market test of the devices in Puerto Rico later this year.

Google has been working with Japanese electronics firm Toshiba on the project. Toshiba has supplied switch and bridge ASICs for the device's on-board network, and created camera modules for the handset.

Google's Project Ara gets some new rivals as Finnish startups invent the next wave of modular devices

Google's Project Ara gets some new rivals as Finnish startups invent the next wave of modular devices

Handsets where you can upgrade hardware as easily as software have always been a dream for consumers. Now, that dream is fast becoming a reality.

Read More

The company is also planning to produce reference designs based on its hardware that will help other module makers develop their ideas, including the camera modules, a close proximity wireless data transfer module, and an activity meter module.

Toshiba is working on two camera modules for Project Ara: one with a computational array camera consisting of two five-megapixel cameras, and another 13-megapixel auto-focus camera module. A document about its Project Ara activities also describes a reference idea for an activity tracker module, a 1cm by 1.8cm block that can be removed from the phone and clipped into a wearable.

In a separate document, Toshiba details a receiver bar with a two-megapixel camera.

While those are the only modules officially on Toshiba's Project Ara roadmap, the company has a lot more mobile device components that could be adapted for Google's exoskeleton in future, including modules for the display, wi-fi, and a media bar.

The company's roadmap says it will have "unique modules" ready by 2016 while the bridges it's developing for the Spiral 3 will be ready in July this year.

According to rumours currently doing the rounds, Toshiba is unlikely to be the only hardware company releasing modules for Project Ara soon: at this year's mobile industry shindig MWC, Google will be showing off the Project Ara base unit and around 50 modules for the device, The Telegraph reports, costing between $50 and $100.

ZDNet has asked Google for comment on whether is will be demonstrating Project Ara designs at the show and will update this story if any is forthcoming.

Read more on Project Ara