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Google to Test Latest Project Ara Prototype in Puerto Rico

If you’ve ever dreamed of a phone that lets you swap in a new camera or add additional batteries on the fly, Google is working on making that dream a reality. And if you live in Puerto Rico, you may be one of the first to try it out.

In concert with the development of its second modular phone prototype, codenamed “Spiral 2”, Google will be creating a market pilot in Puerto Rico to see how its Project Ara smartphone concept fares in the real world. The prototype may only have middling specs by today's standards — the reference design sports just a 1280 x 720 display, a 5-MP camera and an Nvidia Tegra K1 CPU — but the promise of allowing end-users to customize phones for their individual needs could send shocks across the smartphone industry.

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Google will be partnering with two carriers to deliver service to virtually all of Puerto Rico: Open Mobile and Claro, the latter of which is Latin America’s largest cellular provider.

Google chose Puerto Rico due to its unique position as a gateway to both the Latin and North American markets, and its mobile-centric population where over 75 percent of people use a smartphone as their primary internet device.

The goal of the Spiral 2 prototype is to deliver hot-swappabble modules, 3G calling capabilities and bridge the gap between hardware development and the varied needs of consumers.

Google says in order for the new platform to be successful, it will need to create 20-30 modules across multiple categories such as cameras or speakers. The platform will also require designers to create hardware modules as quickly as software developers can make a new app.

To facilitate interaction with consumers, Google will also create “food truck” style mobile shops to deliver modular components and hardware customizations directly to local users.

With Spiral 2, Google has entered the second year of Project’s Ara two-year plan, and its market pilot in Puerto Rico could make or break the initiative. Google ATAP (Advanced Technology and Products) lead Dr. Regina Dugan said that what the group learns from Spiral 2, and the upcoming Spiral 3 prototype, could either cause Google to walk away from the project or renew it for another two years.

Sam Rutherford is a Staff Writer at Tom’s Guide. Follow him @SamRutherford on Twitter, and Tom’s Guide on TwitterFacebook and Google+.