Google Project Ara modular phone could be here soon and cost $50

google project araGoogle’s Project Ara modular smartphones could arrive early next year and, even better news is that, it could be yours for as little as $50.

In a report published by Time it says that the company’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group — which is developing the project to make smartphones composed of small, swappable pieces of hardware — reportedly plans to finish a functioning prototype within weeks and begin preparation on a version for consumer sales beginning in the first quarter of 2015.

Work on the concept, which follows on from R&D by Phonebloks and Motorola, remains at Google because it kept hold of the Advanced Technology and Projects group when it sold Moto to Lenovo.

While multiple phone models may be available from the start Time reveals that ATAP is focused on offering an extremely basic and low-cost option.

Reading further in to the report it looks like the $50 device might stretch the definition of smartphone as it’ll reportedly only include Wi-Fi, and not a cellular connection.

But for owners of an Ara smartphone, that’s not where it ends as, over time, ATAP believes owners of a $50 device will buy more add-ons and turn their phone into one that’s not only much more capable, but tailored to what the user needs.

Ara will apparently support three sizes of devices — mini, medium, and jumbo — ranging from a smaller phone up to a phablet.

Critically, it appears that device size is the one part of an Ara phone that won’t be wildly customisable: every Ara device will be built around an electronic backbone that holds the modules, and Time reports that these backbones will all come from Google.

As for what those modules might consist of and who might be making them, we should find out more soon, but Project Ara’s leader, Paul Eremenko, jokes with Time that someone could even create an incense burner.

“The question was basically, could we do for hardware what Android and other platforms have done for software?” Eremenko, tells Time. “Which means lower the barrier to entry to such a degree that you could have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of developers as opposed to just five or six big [manufacturers] that could participate in the hardware space.”

The look of the phone will reportedly be about as customisable as its capabilities. Time reports that ATAP is working with a 3D printer to allow buyers to customise the style and material of each module’s enclosure — and those enclosures may even be swappable as well.

It all sounds wildly ambitious, because it is. Eremenko says there’s a way to go before Google reaches the $50 price point, and it’s still unclear if there’s huge demand for phones like this.

Time does points out, however, that Eremenko wants the project to be “great, not profitable,” so perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Certainly, it isn’t idle speculation: Google is even holding an Ara developers conference this Spring