Google’s Project Ara Modular Smartphone Pilot Delayed Until 2016

Google has a tendency to get our hopes up with awesome “pet projects” only to later shoot them down with delays or cancelation. One such promising Google endeavor is Project Ara, which can be summed up as LEGO for smartphones.

Project Ara takes a modular approach, allowing customers to purchase a single “basic” smartphone frame and then build upon it with individual models that easily plug-in, giving you additional functionality. If you want to swap out your puny 5MP camera for a higher resolution 12MP camera, the choice is yours. Or let’s say you don’t want a camera at all and would prefer to swap in an additional battery pack to extend your runtimes? That’s perfectly feasible. Or what if your toddler drops the phone and cracks your 5-inch 1080p display? A replacement screen can be easily summoned to replace the broken unit.

Project Ara Spiral 2

“Consumers actually crave choice, but when presented with choice, they seize up–and when they make a choice, they frequently have remorse about making the wrong one,” said Ara project leader Paul Eremenko in January. “Ara is full of choices. We have to carefully curate and manage the experience. “

Google had originally selected Puerto Rico as a test bed for its Project Ara “Spiral 3’ prototypes – this would be the first public outing for the modular smartphones. Spiral 3 devices are further refinements of the preceding Spiral and Spiral 2 prototypes, adding LTE connectivity, modern camera modules and “all-day” battery life. But it now looks as though those plans have been put on hold. But while there is likely to be disappointment for Puerto Ricans that were eagerly awaiting the pilot program, U.S. residents will be happy to know that Google has refocused attention to the contiguous U.S. states:

The Project Ara team then went on to tweet that the modular smartphones is behind schedule and won’t arrive until sometime next year.

In a follow-up tweet, the team explained that there were simply too many permutations to test, which means that there will need to be a longer processor for hardware validation:

Project Ara Spiral 2
When Project Ara smartphones finally do become available for sale, Google is expecting that the base phone frame will cost roughly $50. The company hasn’t given an idea of how much individual modules will cost (after all, pricing would vary greatly between something basic like a Bluetooth module versus a 5-inch 1080p display), but it hopes to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 modules available at launch, including processors, cameras, and batteries.