Google Maps chief leaves for Twitter; Project Ara phones due in January

|By:, SA News Editor

Daniel Graf, Google's (GOOG +0.8%) Maps chief since 2012, is leaving to become Twitter's (TWTR +11.4%) consumer products VP. Among other things, Graf spearheaded the launch of Google's widely-praised iOS Maps apps after Apple controversially opted to use a home-grown Maps app in iOS 6.

Graf takes over Twitter's consumer product efforts at a time when the microblogging leader is attempting to boost flagging user growth by launching and testing a slew of changes meant to make its platform more photo/video-friendly and less intimidating to new users more Facebook-like news feeds.

Separately, Google has announced the first phone for its Project Ara custom/modular phone initiative will arrive in January, and sell for just $50; presumably, adding various custom parts will increase that figure.

Google plans to have Ara, which aims to let smartphone buyers mix and match components such as a device's camera, display, and CPU, support three device sizes. Google will supply "electronics backbones" for the devices, but will rely on third parties to provide the modules that run on top of them.

Twitter shares have flown higher amid an afternoon market rebound.