A few months after a report was released earlier this year that Project Ara is still alive, Google has now suspended the development of the modular smartphone.
News on Project Ara, which looked to create a device that will allow users to switch around components by removing and attaching modules on a basic phone structure, first surfaced in late 2013. The project has since been met with numerous delays, allowing other companies to release their own smartphones with modular components such as the LG G5.
At this year's annual I/O conference held in May, Google's Advanced Technology and Products division revealed the latest prototypes for Project Ara, which looked simpler and more beautiful compared with previous versions. The prototypes also showed off a new latch system to keep the modules in place, along with a hot-swapping feature that allows users to switch out modules without having to turn off the smartphone.
Project Ara was then said to still be in full swing, with developer units expected to be released this fall. The consumer version of the smartphone was pegged for a 2017 release.
A new report by Reuters, however, revealed that Google has suspended Project Ara. According to two sources, the reason behind the suspension is that the company is now looking to streamline its hardware efforts.
The modular smartphone that Google was working on under Project Ara may never be released by Google itself. However, there is still the possibility that the device will live on, as Google could still work with certain partners to be able to bring the technology of Project Ara into a consumer device. One of the sources said that this could happen through licensing agreements.
The concept of a modular smartphone has been met with great enthusiasm among consumers. Users have dreamed of switching out cameras depending on the situation, installing more powerful processors as they are released and adding battery packs for longer usage time. However, the modular smartphone being developed by Project Ara has proven to be difficult to launch, because of the swappable modules being costly to produce and bulky to carry around, said TECHnalysis Research analyst Bob O'Donnell.
"This was a science experiment that failed, and they are moving on," he added.
A report released after the I/O Conference revealed that Phonebloks creator Dave Hakkens did not like how Project Ara was turning out. Hakkens said that the device is not modular enough, that it could still be obsoleted as most core components have been pushed into the device's frame, and that Google needs to be more open about the project.
Phonebloks teamed up with Motorola on the modular smartphone project back in 2013, before Motorola was purchased by Google. Google has since sold Motorola to Lenovo, but decided to keep Project Ara under its Advanced Technology and Products division.