Alphabet Inc’s Google has suspended Project Ara, its ambitious effort to build what is known as a modular smartphone with interchangeable components, as part of a broader push to streamline the company’s hardware efforts, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
The move marks an about-face for the tech company, which announced a host of partners for Project Ara at its developer conference in May and said it would ship a developer edition of the product this autumn.
Project Ara would allow a user to assemble a phone like building blocks. The project was an endoskeleton to which a user can add modules as per their liking. It would be possible to fit a keyboard with a smaller screen on the unit, or put an extra battery module, a better camera, or extra speakers – depending on what you require from your device.
A spokeswoman for Google declined to comment on the matter. While Google will not be releasing the phone itself, the company may work with partners to bring Project Ara’s technology to market, potentially through licensing agreements, one of the people with knowledge of the matter said.
Axing Project Ara is one of the first steps in a campaign to unify Google’s various hardware efforts, which range from Chromebook laptops to Nexus phones. Former Motorola president Rick Osterloh rejoined Google earlier this year to oversee the effort. Google sold Motorola Mobility to Lenovo Group in 2014.
Modular smartphones have generated great enthusiasm in the tech community for their potential to prolong the lifespan of a device and reduce electronic waste. But the devices are difficult to bring to market because their interchangeable parts make them bulky and costly to produce, said analyst Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research, adding that he was not surprised to see Google halt the project. “This was a science experiment that failed, and they are moving on,” he said.
Project Ara was one of the flagship efforts of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, which aims to develop new devices, but it had various stops and starts. Last year, the company shelved plans to sell the modular phone in Puerto Rico with Latin American carriers.
IndianExpress.com got a sneak-peak into the Project Ara prototypes back in 2014. The idea of Project Ara was to let developers market modules for the device directly to consumers. There were suppose to be three frame sizes to choose from – mini, medium and jumbo, with the smallest having 10 module slots.
With Tech Desk inputs