Is the modular phone dead forever?
Yesterday, Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) shelved Project Ara, its modular smartphone initiative. However, the tech giant could still bring Project Ara to the market through licensing agreements with partners.
During its developer conference in May, Google had announced a host of partners for Project Ara. A developer edition of the product was even expected for shipment this autumn, but that was before the mobile device with interchangeable components got axed.
The move was motivated by the company’s desire to narrow its hardware production process and unify its several hardware efforts like Chromebook laptops and Nexus phones. Google Senior Vice President Rick Osterloh is leading the campaign.
Modular smartphones had the tech community enthusiastic about their potential to prolong the lifespan of a device and reduce electronic waste. However, producing interchangeable parts was a very expensive task to carry out, said TECHnalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell.
ATAP and Google tried to make Project Ara a reality
In 2011, Google acquired some patents related to modular mobile phones from Israeli cell phone company Modu. The Advanced Technology and Projects team (ATAP) within Motorola Mobility, while it was a Google subsidiary, announced Project Ara in October 2013.
When Lenovo bought Motorola in 2014, Google retained the ATAP and continued the stalled project. An Ara smartphone prototype was presented at Google I/O in June 2014, but the phone got stuck while booting and failed to start.
In January 2015, Google unveiled a second prototype called Spiral 2. The company was going to sell the modular phone in Puerto Rico with Latin American carriers for test marketing purposes, but Google announced the Ara pilot got delayed indefinitely in August 2015.
Project Ara boasted amazing features at the Google I/O 2016
Google decided to unveil the test model at Google I/O 2016. The company planned to ship it later this year and perform a consumer launch of Project Ara in 2017.
However, in a surprising turn of events, Google confirmed last Friday Project Ara had been shelved. The latest Ara concept was a base phone with non-upgradable core components, and modules providing supplemental features.
Billions of people were excited about the modular phone, and the estimated price was one of its hooks. Google said the modular smartphone would cost around $100.