Google has reportedly shelved plans to build its Project Aramodular smartphones.
According to reports from Reuters, Google’s holding company Alphabet has suspended the project in a bid to help it concentrate on its other hardware efforts, including its Chromebook laptops and Nexus phones. This is a dramatic change for the company which announced in May it would be shipping developer prototypes of the Ara by autumn 2016.
Originally announced in 2013, Google intended to create smartphones with interchangeable components that could provide longer handset lifetimes and reduce electronic waste.
The phones were set to consist of an ‘endo’ frame – the only part manufactured by Google – and multiple modular components produced by third parties. In theory, users could plug in new batteries, speakers and other components to upgrade their smartphones without requiring a whole new handset.
Project Ara’s cancellation comes at the end of several years of setbacks and delays for Google. Touted as a ‘$50 Wi-Fi phone’ when it was first announced, a near-working prototype was presented at Google’s I/O developer conference in 2014, but it failed to boot onstage. At that point, the company intended for 90 per cent of the smartphone’s interior space to be filled with customisable modules.
Google pieced together a prototype Project Ara at its 2015 I/O conference and it was expected that developer handsets would ship that same year, but that date was pushed back to autumn 2016 and now it seems the project has been shelved. Smartphone manufacture Yezz had already produced multiple Ara modules and had intended to sell them across Latin America.
Developed by Google’s secretive ‘Advanced Technology and Projects Group,’ modular smartphones were an innovative idea back in 2013 but since then several manufacturers have developed their own piecemeal handsets.
The first publicly available modular phone, the ethically-produced Fairphone 2, was released in 2015 and is designed to make repairing smartphones easier.
Earlier this year, Motorola announced its own modular phones, theMoto Z and Moto Z Force which let users snap on projectors, speakers or battery pack to their handsets.