Google suspends Project Ara

Alex Kidman 5 September 2016


Google’s innovative modular phone concept is no more.

One of the more annoying aspects of smartphone ownership is that there’s always a "better" model due to be announced any day now. Right now, that’d be the iPhone 7 from Apple, but ditching an iPhone 6s just because the iPhone 7 is better makes for a poor economic argument. You can always gift your old phone to relatives, sell it or send it to Mobile Muster, but there’s a strong argument for keeping mobile phones as long as possible, at which point your relatives might not want it, and it might sell for very little.

Google’s Project ARA was a bold idea designed to combat that upgrade mania by providing phones built from single building blocks, whether they were new camera modules, processors, memory or any other component. Kind of like a LEGO smartphone in essence; you’d buy into the ARA ecosystem, but then all you’d need to do is buy the new bits you needed as and when they became available.

Google announced Ara back in 2013, but over the weekend it emerged that the project has, essentially been shelved, with Google seeking to slim down its product lines rather than diversify.

This doesn’t quite mean that absolute modular phone design is dead; as Ausdroid notes, many of the folks who helped Google out with Ara designs have moved onto other modular concept phones and cases. In the meantime, the LG G5 uses a very modular concept for its "friends" modules, and Motorola has the Moto Z, yet to launch in Australia, which uses add-on "Moto Mods" modular blocks to enhance its capabilities.

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