Project Ara

Parts of a functional prototype of a Project Ara phone. (Google)

Google is aiming to sell $50 customizable modular phones by early next year, the company said this week.

In a report in Time magazine, Google said it is continuing to work on Project Ara, an effort to create phones that users can easily modify by switching their parts as though they are Lego blocks.

Project Ara began in late 2012 under subsidiary Motorola's Advanced Technology and Projects group, which Google decided to retain in its agreement to sell Motorola to Lenovo for nearly $3 billion late last month.

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Although Google only has a few staffers working on Project Ara, the company told Time that it hopes to complete a working prototype within the next few weeks. The goal is to be able to sell Project Ara modular phones to consumers by the first quarter of 2015.

Google said the first phones will only be able to connect to Wi-Fi networks. The devices will all use a backbone that modules connect to. The backbones will come in three sizes: mini, medium and jumbo. 

The Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant said it'll sell the backbones of the modular phones while developers can create and sell the modules.

“The question was basically, could we do for hardware what Android and other platforms have done for software?” said Paul Eremenko, the man who leads the effort, according to Time. “Which means lower the barrier to entry to such a degree that you could have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of developers as opposed to just five or six big [manufacturers] that could participate in the hardware space.”

To get Project Ara moving forward, Google announced that it will hold a series of developer conferences this year, with the first happening in April.

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