It seems as if Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone project is coming along nicely, despite a few manufacturing setbacks. There was apparently a problem with manufacturing devices for those who won units at Google I/O, but Google yesterday announced some exciting developments: the third iteration of Ara is planned to sport a custom-made system-on-a-chip made in collaboration with Rockchip, which is going to be made with the unique form factor of the device in mind.
As goes for the first iteration of the device that Google is going to be shipping to lucky winners of the prize challenge the company hosted at I/O, there was unfortunately a minor manufacturing setback involving an incorrect material being used to plate the boards. The reworked hardware, however, will be ready to ship at some point in the next two weeks—and Google says it will “adjust prize challenge timelines” as ship dates are determined.
The most exciting news that came from this little project update, though, is the announcement of a collaboration with Rockchip—a company known for budget systems-on-chip—to make a processor specifically geared around the modular aspect of the project. The chip will essentially be able to function solely as an application processor, making it more of an independent piece of the smartphone puzzle rather than a central hub for its other components. As mentioned, the chip is expected to be in working order as of the third design “spiral” or version of Ara.
In other Ara news, we just kicked off an effort with Rockchip to create a mobile SoC with a native, general-purpose UniPro interface, so that it can function as an application processor in an Ara module without the need for a bridge chip. We view this Rockchip processor as a trailblazer for our vision of a modular architecture where the processor is a node on a network with a single, universal interface–free from also serving as the network hub for all of the mobile device’s peripherals. We expect to be able to demo the Rockchip UniPro processor in our third design spiral, with a prototype anticipated in early 2015.
But this project is still a ways away from being anywhere close to finished. We’ve yet to see the second spiral of the project materialize, so it goes without saying that the third is still a way off. In the coming months and years we’ll be sure to know more, though, and it will be interesting to watch as this phone continues to develop.