The Project Ara modular phone platform is close to being launched, and Google seems to already have a few modules ready to go. Two of the latest modules supported by the Ara platform include a module that contains the Tegra K1 processor, and another that contains a Marvell PXA1928 processor (quad-core 64-bit Cortex A53).
It seems Google is creating two reference designs that will sell at different price points and will also have different form factors. It's likely the Tegra K1-based reference platform will be the most expensive and also have the largest size, while the Marvell-based one will have the smaller size and lower-priced module.
The Tegra K1 chip is probably going to be the Denver-based version, because then both chips would be based on the ARMv8 architecture. That should make things a little easier for Ara developers, as they won't have to make the modules compatible with two different instruction sets.
Both modules are part of the Spiral 2 series of prototypes, which will be shown at the Ara developer conferences held in Mountain View and Singapore on January 14 and January 21, respectively.
There's another Rockchip-based module in the works that's more integrated with the platform, and it will be compatible with the Spiral 3 prototypes that should be unveiled this coming spring. The Spiral 3 series of prototypes may be the last ones before the final product appears, but that's not certain yet.
Project Ara is likely to be the first modular phone platform to come to market next year, but competitors such as Puzzlephone and Vsenn promise not to be too far behind. Each takes a different approach to modularity, so it will be interesting to see which of them the market will choose.
Simplicity (a strength of the Puzzlephone and Vsenn) usually wins, but Google, the company behind Android that already has an inherent advantage with partners such as Nvidia, Marvell, Rochip and Toshiba, also has a head start in terms of awareness. At the developer conferences next month, Google intends to unveil the module marketplace, which should give Ara yet another advantage over the competition.