Alphabet Inc has reportedly shelved Google’s Project Ara modular phone experiment. The company has not made any official announcements about the change in direction, although people close to the matter claim that it is part of a greater effort to streamline the company’s hardware projects.
News of the change of plans should not come as a surprise to those who have been following the development of Project Ara. Numerous delays have plague its release; including cancelling a planned pilot project to sell the device in Puerto Rico.
The pilot program, initially slated to kick off later this year in Puerto Rico, has been postponed until 2016 and moved to an as-yet-undisclosed location, Project Ara announced in a series of tweets hashtagged “#yeswearelate.” The company said it is looking at different locations in the U.S. to debut the phones, and chalked up delays to “Lots of iterations…more than we thought.”
Reuters reported late Thursday, the project failed to deliver on its promises. The modular tech failed repeatedly in demonstrations. The prototype was all set to start a pilot program in Puerto Rico, but that was suddenly canceled, with barely an explanation.
Project Ara was first announced by Motorola nearly three years ago. It was initially developed by the company’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, which Google held onto after selling Motorola Mobility to Lenovo.
As it turns out, manufacturing individual modules for a smartphone is not cheap and the components end up being far bulkier than most consumers would like. Despite this, the idea of a highly customizable smartphone is still very popular within the tech industry.
Google may be dropping the modular phone plan, but it could still be involved in the future development of similar devices. The company is also apparently looking into the possibility of licensing the designs to other manufacturers who are still keen on the idea of modular parts.
The appeal of a modular smartphones lies in the fact that consumers can customize and replace various components piece by piece, including keyboards, cameras, batteries and speakers. And then, like an app store for hardware, developers would be able to sell their own invented modules on the Google Play Store and beyond.
This is indeed a sad news for every one who has been impatiently waiting to see these truly modular phones in the market.