Google Ditches Modular Smartphone


Google has given up on its modular smartphone plans known as Project Ara. The news comes only a few months after it significantly scaled back plans for the devices.

The original idea was that the phones would effectively be nothing more than a frame with every major component replaceable and upgradable in a process that resembled adding or removing Lego bricks. The theory was that owners would never need to replace the phone itself because obsolete or underpowered components could simply be replaced.

In May, Google decided that the project simply wasn’t viable. It announced a new model in which the screen, memory, storage and processor were all fixed. The phones would have six expansion slots that could be filled with an initial range of 30 modules such as a higher-resolution camera or an extra display that used electronic ink.

The business model would shift from promoting upgrades for core components to hoping third-party developers would create a market for creative modules. The plan was to release a developer edition this fall.

Now Reuters reports work on the project has been suspended. It appears to be partly because of the project itself failing to live up to potential, and partly because it was getting in the way of a wider move by Google to simplify its operating systems. One theory is that the company ultimately aims to merge Chrome OS and Android to allow a single system that powers phones, tablets and computers.