Google cancels plan for smartphone with interchangeable parts

Project Ara, which was the dream project and an innovative attempt of Alphabet Inc.’s Google to develop modular smartphone with interchangeable components like cameras, batteries and speakers, has been shelved. However, the decision comes as a surprise especially since the company at its developer conference in May that it would begin shipping Project Ara devices to developers this autumn and a consumer release for 2017.

Google has decided not to release the product itself, but it may work with partners to bring Project Ara’s technology to market, possibly through licensing agreements, according to Reuters. The company regularly partners with device makers to build its Nexus smartphones and tablets, so this wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for Google.

“Most people do not upgrade their phone to get the next processor — they do not even know what that is — but they do it to get the next best camera, or fingerprint sensor, or better speaker, all in one device,” Rafa Camargo, Google’s engineering lead, demonstrated a functional developer version of an Ara phone told Digital Trends in an interview this year. “[We developed] a new set of technologies to create a more seamless modular experience for users …”

For those unfamiliar, Project Ara was initially developed by the company’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, which Google held onto after selling Motorola Mobility to Lenovo in 2014. Project Ara was first announced by Motorola almost three years ago.

Project Ara was designed to allow users to switch key smartphone parts when they’re broken or to upgrade them when better segments go along. This would allow a user to assemble a phone like building blocks. With this modular smartphone designing scheme, Google aimed at creating a phone can be customized with an extra camera, battery, camera, speakers and other elements, depending on what you require from your device. This Project Ara was reported to unify Google’s hardware segment, which ranges from Chromebook Laptops to Nexus Mobiles.

Modular smartphones are indeed an exciting concept to bring to the market for their potential to prolong the lifespan of a device and reduce electronic waste, which would definitely keep consumers interested. However, modular smartphones are bulkier and costlier to produce than the regular ones, making them a risky business move.

Last year, Google shelved plans to sell the modular smartphone in Puerto Rico with Latin American carriers.

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