Good news and bad news. Google's modular smartphone, Project Ara, is getting ever-closer to an official launch. In fact, some people are even going to get a chance to play around with it this year.
The bad news? Probably not you.
According to Google, a developer edition of Project Ara will start shipping in fall of this year. If you want to get your hands on one, you'll have to hit up Google's website for Project Ara and indicate your specific interest in the device: you want to build a module for it, you have an idea for an Ara module, you have a specific use case in mind for Ara, or you just want to know about Ara's timeline.
The developer edition of Project Ara will ship as a 5.3-inch Android device (obviously). Most of its key innerworkings are housed in the frame of the device, and up to six different modules can be added (and removed) to customize the device with new capabilities.
Google recently showed off at a demonstration of the device at this year's Google I/O developer conference. Though some of the key components of Project Ara will likely not be swappable in the first-generation version of the device—like the phone's CPU and memory—you'll still be able to do things like slap in a camera module if (or when) you want to go out and shoot photos. And it doesn't appear as if you'll even have to reboot the device when you add or replace a module. (At least, Google representatives didn't have to when they added in a camera module in their demonstration.)
To remove a module, you just have to go into the device's Settings app and eject it, much as you might tell your MacBook that you want to eject a USB flash drive. However, Google also makes it a bit easier for the average person by allowing you to eject a module via an "OK Google" command as well. (The command even triggers a physical latch that partially pops the module out for you.)
As for when you might be able to get your non-developer hands on one, a (thinner) version of the device that normal people can buy is expected to launch next year, reports Recode. A number of early module manufacturers for the device include Panasonic, iHealth, Samsung, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment—we're curious to see what they're cooking up for Ara.