Is Google ditching modular smartphone plan Project Ara?

2 Sep 2016

Google’s entertaining Project Ara may have been scrapped, with reports that the plan to build a modular smartphone with multiple interchangeable parts has been shelved for now.

The three-year lifespan of what sounded a wonderful plan from Google seems to have self-destructed, and Project Ara is no more.

That’s according to fresh reports about a unification of the company’s hardware efforts, with the potential for third-party partners to, instead, bring something akin to Project Ara to market.

Future Human

Google thinks that the effort involved in making such a device is unlikely to pay off, choosing to focus on the company’s many other hardware bets, including Chromebooks, Android devices and Google Home, according to Recode.

Project Ara

This comes as quite a surprise as, only last May, at the Google I/O, plans were announced to release Project Ara to developers by the end of this year.

Though even that news came with a caveat: the grand plans had shifted significantly. No longer would there be capability to remove processors as better ones emerged, which had arguably provided the long-term appeal of this project.

Instead, developers were told in May that Project Ara would launch with just four modular parts, including a speaker, a camera, an e-paper display and a module for expanded memory.

While this might seem quite underwhelming given its original lofty ambitions, it was hoped that, by opening up the phone to third-party developers, more advanced modules could be built far outside what was once thought possible on a smartphone.

Now that Google is backing away, there’s more resting on the shoulders of these third-party developers than anyone expected.

Changes in Project Ara have been a consistent theme, making the plans, rather than the smartphone itself, the true modular beast.

Last year, Puerto Rico was chosen as an eventual test bed for the phones. Trucks would travel around the island offering modules to buy – an ice-cream truck model of tech sales.

That was shelved. The plans announced at this year’s I/O was shelved. Now, according to Reuters, Ara is shelved too.

Project Ara concept image via Maurizio Pesce/Flickr

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic