Google's Project Ara, which aims to develop a smartphone that allows users to swap in components such as additional batteries and a new camera, will be making its debut in Puerto Rico.
Spiral 2, the codename for the second prototype of the modular phone being developed under Project Ara, will be tested in Puerto Rico by Google through a market pilot, to see whether the smartphone concept can do well when launched into the real world.
Spiral 2 will not have top-of-the line specifications, featuring a 1,280 x 720 pixel display with a 5MP camera and an Nvidia Tegra K1 CPU. However, the promise of allowing users to make customizations to their smartphones according to their personal needs and preferences is a first in the industry.
Google will be forming partnerships with Claro and Open Mobile, which are two carriers in Puerto Rico that will deliver the market pilot of the modular phone to the whole country. Claro, specifically, is the biggest cellular provider in Latin America.
The decision for Google to launch the market pilot of Spiral 2 in Puerto Rico is due to the country's unique location as a gateway to both the markets of North America and Latin America. In addition, Puerto Rico has a mobile-centric population wherein 75 percent of the people use their smartphones as their primary device for accessing the Internet.
The Spiral 2 prototype aims to provide users with modules that can be hot-swapped, that is interchanged easily without requiring the smartphone to be turned off, has capabilities for 3G calls, and a bridged gap between the development of smartphone hardware and the varying needs of the users of the devices.
According to Google, the success of the new platform will require the company to develop between 20 to 30 modules spanning across several categories, including speakers and cameras. The platform will also need designers to develop hardware modules as fast as how quickly software developers can create new apps.
Google will be using mobile shops in similar style to food trucks in Puerto Rico to facilitate interaction with customers. The mobile shops will be delivering modular components and customized hardware directly to users signing up for the service in Puerto Rico.
The development of Spiral 2 signals Google's entry into the second year of the two-year plan for Project Ara, and the upcoming market pilot will be an early indicator of the project's success or failure.
According to Regina Dugan, the lead for Google Advanced Technology and Products, the learnings that the team will get from the release of the Spiral 2 and the upcoming Spiral 3 prototype will lead to Google's decision to either cancel the project or renew it for another two years.