According to the Nikkei business wire, Toshiba announced today that the company will be providing the processing guts for Google's upcoming Project Ara modular smartphones. The release itself is pretty bare-bones - Toshiba says it will provide 3 different types of processors for the phone, and that while it will initially be the "preferred" supplier for those components, it will become their sole provider a year after Ara's initial rollout.

Perhaps more interestingly, the story claims that Ara smartphones will start at prices as cheap as $50. What's not clear, exactly, is what that will include - does that come with a display? Battery? Processor? RAM? Storage? The number is tantalizing, though, and will certainly make waves if it ends up being true.

Each Ara phone will have 5-10 module slots, depending on the size of the device and the modules. Otherwise, there's not much to this story - it's pretty cut and dry. The one thing I'd wonder is just what sort of processors Toshiba will be providing. My guess would be the company is going to fabricate reference design-based ARM processors, similar to those sold by firms like MediaTek. There's still a lot we don't know about Project Ara, and it seems with every new piece of information even more questions arise.


David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Serge Cebrian

    i hope they have all the basic Kit parts to have a functioning phone for $50

    but i can imagine my self saving for parts before using the phone as brand new :P if they dont

    i also hope they make an ARA tablet..

    • Andrew Gallagher

      They have specifically said that the $50 price point won't get you a phone. It'll be the smallest endo with a screen, CPU, battery, WiFi module, and a small amount of storage. Think iPod Nano..

      • Serge Cebrian

        yeah I thought of that..
        we will have to see if LEGOing your way to a phone gets really compelling and distrupts the mobile market so prices on flagships tend to go down (wishful thinking I know)

  • AbbyZFresh


    But the reality is, not too many people will actually waste their time finding the right parts for their PC. They will still go to the carrier store and buy an assembled phone because it's casy.

    • WORPspeed

      Let them, let them pay overpriced prices, let the greedy companies profit of the lazy. Just let those who put in the effort reap the benefits :P

  • jcopernicus

    They're clearly talking about the processors and chips inside of the skeleton (for $50).

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Which includes? There are still significant details missing there. Toshiba could be providing motion processors, audio (DSP) processors, application processors, radio processors, etc.

    • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

      Except the endo was supposed to be a LOT less than $50. They were talking about hoping to get that component down to $15-20 on its own.

      • Brian K

        No. $50 is the cost for hardware....to Google. They sell it for more.

        • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

          In the live interview at the conference the Google engineer very clearly stated the endo was being aimed for around $15-$20. The $50 price was the BOM for the endo, screen, processor, and WiFi module. Everything necessary for a basic VoIP smartphone.

  • miri

    The "gray phone" base model comes with a display, wifi and basic battery. It was announced some time ago.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Ah, I see. That's still not a very clear answer, you don't even explicitly say there's an application processor.

      • miri

        Forgot what exactly's in it and in a cursory search, none of the articles mention the gray phone's specs. All I know is that it contains the absolute minimum to function and save for the display, most of it is somehow built into the chassis to allow hot-swapping modules.

        • all12jus

          Wouldn't it need an application processor to do basic functionality?

          • miri

            I think that, albeit a very weak one, is built into the frame as well. Can't be too sure how it all works as they haven't gone into much detail and I'm too lazy to dig up the sources where I heard it in the first place.

  • Bob Hart

    When I think about processors for a modular phone I might like to own at some point in the future Toshiba is not the one that comes to mind..

    Why not open this project up to all smart phone component makers an see who submits the best solutions.

    Unless the main players are not interested?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I don't see why Qualcomm could give two shits, honestly. They make their money by bundling everything into a single SoC that has relatively low flexibility. That's how they control the market. If you want a Qualcomm radio it makes much more business sense to pair it with a Qualcomm processor, which also includes a GPU, Bluetooth, a slew of support for sensors, etc. NVIDIA and Intel would jump onto this way before Qualcomm would, and I doubt they're even that interested.

      Toshiba, on the other hand, probably wants in because the chance of this contract going big and turning into a huge moneymaker makes it a kind of "why not?" They have no existing market share to speak of in this space - they're a new player.

    • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

      The linked article, to me, doesn't even imply they'll be the ONLY ones making processors for it.

  • HellG

    "that the company will providing the processing guts for Google's upcoming Project Ara"
    Will be? Will Provide?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      You saw nothing.

      • HellG

        Saw what? When did i even make that comment?
        ;) :P

  • KojiroAK

    Wouldn't a single supplier for processors completly go against the basic idea of ARA?

    I call bs.

    • Brandon Miller

      Maybe a single supplier for the base versions? I don't know, like you said that doesn't make sense at all.

      • KojiroAK

        Except for the base setting only I can think off that would make sense that they are talking about specific processors.
        Not like CPU but something like the environmental co-proccesors found in the Moto X.

        So they are not becoming the sole provider of all the processors but for very specific ones.

    • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

      If you read the article, it doesn't say anything about them being the ONLY supplier. Just that they WILL be supplying chips for it. In general. Sounds to me more like they've signed on as one of the many, many companies who will be making stuff for it.

      • KojiroAK

        " it will become their sole provider a year after Ara's initial rollout"

        sole = single, only

        • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

          My mistake. They buried that in literally the absolutely last sentence. Something still sounds fishy about that.

        • deltatux

          Initial rollout this means that it's just for launch to build up the ecosystem. Once that's built, it's all open. They have to start somewhere, if they went all out, that's just too much risk.

          • KojiroAK

            Other way around first prefered after a year the sole after the article.

    • x3haloed

      Nope. One manufacturer could create plenty of components with different specs and properties.

    • Cody Curry

      If anything it sounds backwards.

      This might be a deal for a combo package. Google sells the Ara Frame and bundles it with a processor + RAM unit produced by Toshiba. The interface is open so competition can start selling alternatives, but the basic models will come bundled, at least at first. Once the market takes off, they can just sell frames or license them out.

      • KojiroAK

        That would make sense.

    • Brian K

      Google is making Endo's. This is probably the processor for the Endo itself, NOT for the actual phone processor.

      Though, nothing would stop anyone from making a processing module. Google may just decide to go with Toshiba. But if qualcomm wanted to make a module, they are free to do so.

  • Fabian Pineda

    It's such a shame Ara will be such a commercial fiasco. But at least us nerds will get our way.

    • http://nopenopenope.nope Ryuuie

      Exactly what is your reasoning for it being a commercial fiasco? It works fine with computers so why wouldn't it work fine with phones/tablets?

      Would the general public be confused? Yes, but who cares about them? The mere idea of not having a password as "Password123" is a hard concept for most people to understand, this isn't catering to them.

      This is obviously catering to the "nerds" and those who want to tinker with their device. You don't like the popular-with-the-public shitty desktop? Build your own. Want a customized laptop? Build your own.

      It's not a hard concept if you can read, comprehend what you just read, and can follow directions.

      If done right, Ara phones will be a niche market but will do just fine just like custom computers.

      • Fabian Pineda

        Uh... no. Appealing to nerds doesn't exactly mean commercial success. You don't need to lecture me on custom built anything. I'm already a fan.

        Project Ara is great, but I don't expect it to sell record units. And expecting otherwise isn't exactly realistic.

        • http://nopenopenope.nope Ryuuie

          Didn't say it would sell insanely well outside of the niche crowds but it clearly works fine with customizing computers and that is clearly what Motorola was banking on and what Google is banking on now. Simply "It worked before".

          Expecting it to fail just because normal people don't "get it" isn't realistic either. Will it sell record units? We don't know that but most likely not. Do new graphics cards, System Builder versions of Windows, high end processors, and RAM sticks sell record units? Not really if you compare them to prebuilt systems from the likes of Sony, HP, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, etc.

          This will probably be the same thing. It'll sell fine but won't hold a candle to OEM devices.

          • Roger Siegenthaler

            The thing is it's more like custom laptops then custom PCs because you're in a space-confined area. And concerning custom laptops... well pricing isn't exactly, nice...

        • CerealFTW

          The phonebloks video was able to garner a lot of hype, I don't think it will sell insanely well but it's not going to do bad imo

        • http://www.gameosaur.com/ neoKushan

          You're forgetting that Ara is cheap, initially. Despite what the article states, that $50 ara device is meant to be a complete phone - not a very good one, but with all of the components you need. That's mass market right there, price is the biggest factor. Except with this one, it's not a $50 phone that you chuck away in a few months for another $50 phone, it's a $50 phone that you can throw another $20 at to upgrade the processor, or $15 to upgrade the storage or whatever. It's aim is people who can't afford to drop £500 right away but still need some component that's only usually available on high-end devices.

          • D

            Just don't expect those $50 phones to be sold anywhere, except ebay for $250+.

          • http://www.gameosaur.com/ neoKushan

            And the play store, right?

    • Barnassey

      There you go again with the negative talk about a product. Whats the problem?

      • Fabian Pineda

        Kind sir, if you don't like my comments, I politely invite you to ignore them.

  • hairyback

    According to one of the presentations I watched, the $50 will just be for the shell minus the components.

  • sggodsell

    Watching the Ara developer conference. Toshiba will be making all the asic's for every module. They are the chip that talks on the switching bus and sends and receives the modules data to an AP (Application Processor) module. The test AP modules were using TI's omap processors. So I guess down the road Ara will have multiple AP.

    • h4rr4r

      Do they provide something like PCI then?
      Because ARM needs this so badly. Having to know the hardware before you boot is practically stoneage.

  • h4rr4r

    How are they going to deal with a lack of anything like PCI?

  • Matthew Fry

    My dream of creating a hexadec-core, 32GB RAM, 128GB storage, 15360 × 8640 5.5" screen phone will finally become a reality!

    • ins0mn1a

      haha, by my calculation, the largest of the three ara endos can actually house a screen of about 6". and i want it. badly ;).