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Jan 28, 2015

First Project Ara Modules Appear: Innolux Displays and Sennheiser Audio

The first modular smartphone kit to arrive under the Project Ara banner should be launched later this year. While we wait on the big occasion, we thought you’d like to know that developers are working on the modules that will actually let you achieve device customization.

And the first parts are in. Display maker Innolux has already unveiled a 4.5-inch, 1280 x 720 pixel Ltps display with 600 cd/m2 brightness plus a 1 mm / 0.03 inch border panel. The module is resistant against scratches and such, thanks to Corning’s Gorilla Glass technology. Innolux also plans to start manufacturing 3D and E-Ink displays for Project Ara. Moreover, German audio specialist Sennheiser has started preparations for designing high-end audio modules.

The first one is called Amphion and is actually a premium sound card that goes in the smartphone. It comes with a 150 milliwatt class G headphone amp, low-noise headphone jack plus low-latency digital signal processor. A second version is being touted as Proteus and is equipped with two audio jacks. Have you ever wanted to share with somebody the lovely tune you were listening to? Just passing along one ear-bud is usually useless in such a situation, but with a module like Proteus your friend could plug in his/her headphones too.

These are pretty cool developments and we expect more to come our way soon, especially from the camera department.

Innolux display for Project Ara

Proteus sound module from Sennheiser

Proteus sound module has two jacks

Amphion sound module from Sennheiser
Images credits to Phonebloks

Canonical Reveals the Hardware Specs of the Ubuntu Aquarius E4.5 Phone

Canonical has revealed the specs for the Aquarius E4.5 phone that will launch with Ubuntu Touch, although they were not exactly a state secret.

Information about the launch of the Ubuntu-powered Bq Aquarius E4.5 phone in February was made public only a month ago, so it's not really a secret what phones will be used by the Spanish partners at Canonical. Meizu, the partners from China, have been much more secretive and it's likely that they will wait until the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona scheduled to start on March 2. In the meantime, even if Meizu was the first company to confirm the release of an Ubuntu phone, it looks like Bq beat them to the punch, although they are aiming at different users. The specs detailed by Canonical show that Aquarius E4.5 is an affordable device with medium hardware specs. It doesn't seem like much, but it's addressed at people who don't want to spend too much on a high-end phone, but still want to own a smartphone.

Aquarius E4.5 specs are not a secret
The phone was revealed a few months back and the hardware specs were also made available. Nonetheless, Canonical felt that users need to hear the information from an official source and they have also released details about Aquarius E4.5. "A strong innovative brand who operates in Europe with over 600 staff. With mobile, in 2013 bq shipped almost 1.5 million devices and in less than a year has become Spain’s second biggest seller of unlocked smartphones. The Aquarius E4.5 Ubuntu edition will be available in Europe and can be purchased soon via the bq site," wrote Canonical on fullcirclemagazine.org.

Aquarius E4.5 is a rather small device, judging by today's standards, with a 4.5-inch screen and a 960×540 resolution. It also comes with a 13MP capable camera, a 2150mAh battery, and a Quad A7 processor at 1.3GHz. The exact date for the launch of the Ubuntu edition for this phone hasn't been pinpointed yet and the announcement only mentions soon. The previously announced launch date was late February, and there is no reason to think that it won't happen then.

Aquarius E45 Specs:
4.5″ qHD (960×540)
5MP Fixed Focus+13MP Autofocus
Dual Flash
Dual micro sim
Quad A7/1.3GHz
Gyroscope, Proximity, Light

Ubuntu Touch on Bq Aquaris e4.5 rendering

This is what the Ubuntu Touch phone might look like

Aquaris e4.5 front

Bq Aquaris e4.5 with white back

Bq Aquaris e4.5 with black back

Aquaris e4.5 with black back

Aquaris e4.5 features Android 4.4.4

Aquaris e4.5 with Android

Aquaris e4.5
Images credits to bq

Google Project Ara Modules Will Be Compatible with BLOCKS Modular Smartwatch

A while ago we talked about the BLOCKS modular smartwatch platform, which is built according to rules similar to Google’s Project Ara, an initiative that aims to build a smartphone made out of swappable modules.

At first, these two endeavors seemed like separate projects, but it turns out that at some point in the future they will be intertwined. That translates into the fact that some Project Ara modules will be made compatible BLOCKS’ modular smartwatch. According to a member from the BLOCKS team, they have already met with Project Ara’s team to discuss the further implementation of the idea.

So in the near future you’ll probably be able to swap out a camera, battery, sensor, secondary notification display or microphone from your smartphone and go on to use it on your smartwatch. Imagine that you have to go out for a run but want to leave your smartphone at home. Just swipe out the cellular module and put it on your smartwatch and there you go, you are covered in case your boss tries to contact you while you’re out. This is a pretty exciting development, which makes a lot of sense. After all, most smartwatches are designed to be paired with smartphones to be of any use to you.

Project Ara teams up with BLOCKS

Several modules of BLOCKS

Colored parts of BLOCKS

Several looks of BLOCKS

BLOCKS will come in many shapes and formes
Images credits to Phonebloks

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