The signs were there that the Project Ara phone may not make into anyone's hands. What started with such great promise for a truly modular smartphone with fully replaceable, repairable and upgradable parts, soon became a watered down version and turnover within Google left the project up in the air.
Just this past May though, Google released photos and specs for the soon-to-be released Project Ara smartphone. While it was not quite what had been envisioned initially, it still had a lot of modular features and could be seen as a stepping stone to a fully modular phone in the future.
Even designer Dave Hakkens, the creator of the Phonebloks concept, a fully modular phone, said at the time that there were a lot of problems with Ara, but that it was close enough to be promising.
Well, now it's time to step back even further because Alphabet, Google's parent company, has reportedly scrapped the Project Ara phone completely. Early deliveries of the phones were supposed to go out to developers this fall with a consumer version landing on shelves early next year.
The New York Times reports that the project was likely abandoned because Google has been moving to eliminate projects that are very ambitious but not very profitable in order to be more financially disciplined. The execution of a modular phone seems to be much more difficult and expensive than first thought. Also, the leader of the group that spearheaded Project Ara left the company a few months ago, which probably added to its insecurity.
The idea of a modular phone is an exciting one. A phone with parts that snap together and can easily be swapped out or repaired when needed instead of upgrading to a whole new phone could cut down on e-waste and slow the constant cycle of consumption when it comes to smartphones. It would give phone users a real sense of ownership because they could customize and repair their phones themselves and use the same phone for much longer.
Really though, consumers don't want a phone that fits together like LEGOs as much as they want a phone that is easily repairable. I think we'd all settle for that and it'd likely be a lot less expensive than trying to build a phone made out of individual blocks.