When it was announced, Project Ara seemed too futuristic an undertaking that a couple of naysayers dismissed as vaporware and not happening for at least a couple of years. But lo and behold, the development for Google’s modular phone is going quite well. Here’s what you need to know about Project Ara.

In case you missed our previous coverage, Project Ara aims to deliver the essence of apps (i.e., customization) to the hardware aspect of a phone. Starting with a skeletal backbone, users can choose what modules to add to the device (e.g., what kind of camera, processor, display, and others) and can opt to replace them as needed. Despite the extreme customization, the modular phone is designed to be skinny—Google’s latest prototype is only 9.7mm thick—and as sturdy as the typical smartphone.

Project Ara aims to appeal to consumers with very limited budget and, as such, the phones will come with very basic features for a very cheap price. In fact, the starter model—dubbed the Gray Phone—costs only $50, but that just comes with Wi-Fi connectivity. A cellular radio will have to be added afterwards when the consumer can afford it.

The first commercial phone to come out of this undertaking is expected to arrive in January 2015. Developing countries will be the first to experience Project Ara.

[Via TIME]

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