Google's Project Ara gets a modular phone rival in startup Vsenn

Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Project Ara now has a competitor in the market for modular-designed smartphones: the Finnish startup called Vsenn.

Not much is known about Vsenn, but the company's website claims the project was co-founded by a former Nokia Android X program manager. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) decided in July to scrap the Nokia X program to focus on developing Lumia-branded Windows Phone smartphones.

Like Project Ara, Vsenn is focused on letting users build phones however they want using interchangeable modules. Vsenn says that it will let users upgrade their camera, battery, processor and RAM all independently via modules. Users will also be able to change their phones' back covers to customize them.

Vsenn claims it will give users pure stock Android software with guaranteed updates for the next four years. Additionally, Vsenn is focusing on security and privacy, and says that all of the data on phones built through Vsenn will be protected "using triple layer encryption" and that the service will provide free access to a VPN network and secure cloud.

Notably, Vsenn is not saying when it will launch, only that "A smartphone evolution is coming."

In terms of Project Ara, Paul Eremenko, the head of Ara within Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group, wrote in a Google+ post late last month that Google is going to host its second Project Ara Module Developers Conference in January at two separate events. The first will be Jan. 14 at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., and at satellite locations at Google offices in New York City, Buenos Aires and London. The second event will be held on Jan. 21 in Singapore, with satellite locations at Google offices in Bangalore, Tokyo, Taipei and Shanghai.

The conferences are going to be focused on the next major release of the Ara Module Developers Kit (MDK).

"We have been hard at work maturing and improving the Ara platform, and we will highlight the major changes and advances in the MDK," Eremenko wrote. "We will also demo the latest Ara prototype and developer hardware. We will highlight some ongoing module development efforts from select developers. And we will share early plans for a market pilot in 2015." 

Last month Google's Ara partner Phonebloks released a video of the first working Ara prototype phone, dubbed Spiral 1, developed by NK Labs in Boston, featuring five removable components: an LED module, a battery, the application processor, speakers and a USB charge port. As The Verge recently noted, currently only half of the prototype's space is open to developers, but NK Labs says the next version, Spiral 2 will use special Toshiba chipsets that will open up much of the phone's modular space for developers to experiment.

For more:
- see this Vsenn site
- see this Pocket-lint article
- see this Engadget article

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