Google's Project Ara modular smartphone — which would let users snap off and swap out different pieces of the phone — could come out at the beginning of 2015 for as little as $50 for a basic model, Google told Time.
Google announced Project Ara in October (through a blog post from Motorola, the smartphone maker that Google owned at that time), but Time's new report reveals much more about the search giant's plans.
Ara's design is focused around hardware that users can customize to fit their needs: a "endoskeleton" that serves as a sort of frame for the device, and "modules" that can be added or removed. Modules can be a new screen, keyboard, processor, battery or any other piece of hardware.
“The question was basically, could we do for hardware what Android and other platforms have done for software?” Paul Eremenko, the head of Project Ara, told Time.
Several critics derided Ara as a pipe dream, but according to the team's discussion with Time,they are working on an aggressive timeline to get the phones into consumers' hands. A working prototype "will be ready within weeks," and Google expects Ara will be on shelves in the first quarter of next year.
Ara is slated to be available in three sizes: a basic mini, a medium and a jumbo "phablet" style.
The stripped-down mini is the device Google plans to sell for $50 at convenience stores (as strange as that sounds). Google will sell the two larger models at mobile kiosks, and according to Time, "it's likely that phones will be available in one geographic region before any global rollout."
Ahead of that rollout, Google is eager to get developers working on Ara. The company announced Wednesday it will hold a trio of Ara developers' conferences this year, starting with a kickoff event in April.