Google vision of upgradable smartphone is abandoned as Project Ara is canned
Google has cancelled its Project Ara modular smartphone concept because the company wants to streamline its hardware efforts, which include Chromebooks and Nexus devices.
The news was first reported by Reuters and TechWeekEurope understands the agency’s account is accurate.
Project Ara was first announced by Motorola Mobility in 2013 and is envisioned as a free, open hardware platform that will allow users to create highly customised smartphones.
Google Project Ara
Modules such as displays, cameras and storage can be changed by simply snapping off one module and replacing it with another. This would allow users to incrementally improve their smartphones, reducing waste and the cost of upgrading.
The project was not included as part of Lenovo’s takeover of Motorola in 2014 and was under the remit of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) lab.
The concept had been discussed as recently as Google I/O earlier this year and a developer edition had been expected at some point in 2016. Google has held a number of developer conferences and a number of partners had been signed up.
Toshiba has shown off early reference designs for camera modules and is working on eight and 13 megapixel rear sensors as well as a two megapixel front facing lens. The company told the Modular Smartphone Forum that it also plans to create designs for wireless charging, NFC and external memory.
But cracks had started to appear. A planned launch in 2015 never took place and a trial in Puerto Rico was postponed last August.
Details of the pilot had been sketchy, but the Caribbean island had been chosen due to its relatively small population the fact its underdeveloped landline infrastructure means that 77 percent of locals use mobiles as their primary communication device. The Project Ara team said alternative sites in the US were being explored but nothing ever came to fruition.