To a chorus of smug ‘I-told-you-sos’ from the technology media fraternity, Google has suspended development of its modular phone initiative, Project Ara. The research was supposed to produce a smartphone which could be taken apart, rebuilt, upgraded and have different components added or replaced easily by the user, making the annual upgrade cycle as we know it obsolete.
Project Ara began life inside the Advanced Technology and Projects team of Motorola Mobility when it was a subsidiary of Google in 2011 and 2012. At its annual developer conference in May 2016 Google announced a number of hardware partnerships for producing Project Ara handsets, and said a version for developers to fine-tune would arrive in the autumn.
But Google’s dreams of a phone which customers can fix and upgrade themselves have been cast aside, to sit in a California storeroom next to the dusty remains of Google Glass, the Nexus Q, Google Wave, Google Reader and dozens of other projects and services let go by parent company Alphabet over the years.