Project Ara phones will have a dedicated app for managing modules

Google’s ambitious modular phone is inching closer to a public “market pilot” scheduled for later this year, and ahead of the second Ara developer’s conference later this week, Google has released the second major version of its toolkit for third-party developers to work on the new platform.

If you’re hoping to submit your own module to Google, you should read the included documents closely: Not only does the manual specify important things to know like tolerances, design best practices, and how much power your module can draw, but the new MDK also outlines what Google needs to know before it certifies that a module works with Ara.

project ara mdk 2

It does appear that Google will take a hands-on approach to certifying each individual module in the Ara marketplace, at least to start. Google’s review process asks for a lot from the developer, who needs to provide, among other requests, a CAD model, 2D drawings, power draw and discharge rates in XML format, and various performance specs.

Once accepted into the Ara Module Marketplace, Google will ship third-party modules directly to users via a logistics provider — so developers don’t need to worry about distribution; they simply have to get their batch of modules to a specified warehouse. Google will also collect the payment (much the way it does in the Google Play app store) and pay developers and vendors directly.

In addition, the MDK mentions that there will be a dedicated “Ara Manager” Android app for users to troubleshoot and configure the modules they plug into their phones. Last month, Two Toasters announced that it was developing the app. Although modules should be hot-swappable, it makes sense that Ara devices would have a hub for user interactions. From the manual:

An Ara Manager App will also be introduced to facilitate user interactions with modules on the device. The Ara Manager App will allow users to get detailed information on all the modules currently attached to their device and swap them by commanding the [electro-permanent magnets] in the Endo to release. The Ara Manager App and required module interfaces will be provided in a future MDK release.

The next big milestone on the Project Ara calendar is the Ara developer’s conference later this week. It will be livestreamed, and hopefully we’ll hear from [company]Google[/company] about the promised new application processor modules, as well as when Project Ara hopes to launch.