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Will You Design and Build Your Next Google Smartphone?

Stocks in this article: GOOGMSFT

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The idea isn't some science fiction pipe dream: If Google (GOOG) has its way, you will be planning and actually making smartphones to meet your personal specifications in the near future.

When Google recently sold it's Motorola Mobility division to Lenovo it kept one very interesting portion of the business, a project called "Phonebloks," which is a way for anyone to design their own personalized smartphone. End-users would be able to pick and choose which features they want for inside their individual handsets.

For instance: Want a good-looking phone just to make calls and text? No problem. Need a loaded device with high-speed, multi-core processors and 32 GB of storage plus tons of mobile features? Again, no problem. You would also be able to make the exact cell phone you desire just by installing a plug-in module or two.

Google is now calling the "do-it-yourself" concept Project Ara, and just announced the first developer's conference to help make the idea a reality.

Google shares were advancing 0.21% to $1,222.88 in early morning trading in New York.

This is how Motorola has been explaining its Phonebloks concept:


Project Ara could ultimately allow you to swap interchangeable parts not only when you first design the phone but also when you want to upgrade it one, two or a few features at a time.

All of this would be possible via plug-in modules that users would buy from a new online store. Think in terms of a Google Play-type marketplace which deals with hardware instead of software. And don't rule out special kiosks where buyers could customize their smartphones on the spot.

Google wants to create a $50 "grayphone" that would serve as the basic building block. In that form it wouldn't be much of a phone, perhaps containing a skeleton frame, screen, and Wi-fi radio. From there the sky's the limit.

If successful, expect similar Google modular concepts possibly for Android tablets, smartwatches and even future wearable devices including Google Glass.

Remember, Project Ara is still in the very early concept stage. Google will have to convince the Federal Communications Commission that allowing users to design and construct their own smartphones is a safe plan. And Google also will need to explain why the idea is something buyers will ultimately want to try.

Google will release "alpha" Ara developer's software in early April so that modular hardware design can begin in earnest. The first of what Google promises to be a series of developers conferences, this year, is set for April 15-16 in Mountain View, Calif. 

Google is also working on another futuristic phone design. As announced at this week's mobile industry show in Barcelona, "Project Tango" will create a smartphone with numerous cameras, "depth sensors" and "vision processors" which will be able to "map" a three-dimensional world surrounding you. The idea will reportedly enhance the current smartphone user's experience. The Tango project is led by Johnny Lee formerly with Microsoft's (MSFT) Kinect development team.

-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

To submit a news tip, send an email to tips@thestreet.com.

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