Google Suspends Modular Smartphone Project

Google isn't making Project Ara hardware anymore, but the device could live on if another company wants to license the technology.
Google Suspends Modular Smartphone Project
Image credit: Google
Google Ara
2 min read
This story originally appeared on PCMag

Google's Motorola division announced Project Ara back in 2013, giving the modular smartphone concept plenty of time to bake in Google's oven.

Eager audiences waited and salivated at the thought of a handset with pick-and-choose parts: Don't want a camera, but need extra battery? Just swap the parts. Need a big loudspeaker for an upcoming beach trip? Snap one in. Easy.

 

At least, that was the idea. According to a recent report from Reuters, Google has suspended Project Ara.

Sources claim the company is looking to "streamline" many of its ongoing hardware projects.

But that doesn't mean Ara is officially over. While Google may not be interested in making the device anymore, it could license the technology if another firm wants to pick up the Web giant's torch.

That said, the setback is just one more in a long list for Ara. The smartphone initially promised a commercial launch target of 2015, but that got pushed back to 2016, and then 2017.

As the delays grew, Google even changed a bit of the Ara's modular design: Rather than having completely replaceable components -- like a CPU that you could swap out for an upgraded version every year -- Google ended up switching to a version of the Ara that had many key components built into the frame.

In other words, parts like the Ara's CPU, GPU, antennas and battery could be supplemented with modular chips, but you couldn't replace them outright.

This week's reports come as a bit of a surprise, given Google's Ara push at this year's I/O developer conference, which included a demonstration of a fully functional Ara device, a tease of the 2017 commercial launch date and a promise that developer versions of the smartphone would start shipping this fall. In fact, Google's developer website for the Ara still points to a fall 2016 launch date.

Of course, the irony is not lost in the fact that Motorola has beaten Google to the market with a somewhat-modular smartphone of its own -- or, at least, one you can customize with add-on components.

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