Hold, please: Google reportedly suspends modular phone project

If you were counting on DIY smartphones to come to market anytime soon, please hold.

It looks like Google has suspended Project Ara, its effort to roll out a modular smartphone with interchangeable parts.

Reuters reports that the move, which presumably cancels the plan to ship a developer version this fall, is part of the push to streamline Alphabet’s hardware efforts. Google brought on a new hardware chief, former Motorola president Rick Osterloh, earlier this year.

The streamlining push has ramped up recently, that’s for sure. It’s been quite a summer for Google and Alphabet, which have lots of moving parts.

Nest this week was reported as being brought under the Google umbrella after an uncertain period that included the departure of CEO Tony Fadell. The maker of fancy thermostats and other smart-home products is supposedly going to be folded into a new internet of things effort.

Google Fiber, the push to deliver ultra-high-speed internet access, has also had its share of setbacks. Alphabet CEO Larry Page reportedly has ordered staffing cuts at Google Fiber, which has delayed its expansion in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. Alphabet has apparently found that building a fiber network is more expensive than it thought it would be — something rival AT&T is taunting the company about.

Google, a pioneer in self-driving cars, lost a key leader of that program earlier this month. Robotics expert Chris Urmson was said to be unhappy with the direction the project was taking. That development comes as the field becomes increasingly crowded and competitive.

Back to phones. The modular smartphone would’ve have allowed customization and perhaps resulted in less electronic waste because users would’ve been able to replace broken parts. But besides being said to be more expensive to produce, perhaps they didn’t fit with Google’s plan to introduce new phones. The new phones, which Android Police reports will be called Pixel, could be introduced at an Oct. 4 event.

Reuters reports that Project Ara may still license its technology out.


Photo: Google headquarters in Mountain View. (Bay Area News Group)


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  • Kin Deli

    not surprising….because its easier to slap a new style onto gmail or maps every 3 months and call it ‘new’. a lot harder when there is real hardware to deal with..