Way back in 2013 we first got wind of Project Ara, a then-Motorola project that attempted to bring us a modular smartphone. At the time, we couldn’t help but feel that the idea seemed a bit like a pipe dream, but we were cautiously optimistic. Three years later, Ara has seen a number of different delays, postponing last year’s planned Puerto Rico soft launch. It was then said to likely arrive sometime in 2016. At Google I/O 2016 however, we finally get the scope on what’s going on.
During a special I/O session, Google showed off a working prototype of Ara, alongside some pretty crucial news about the project’s future. Firstly, the project is moving on to Google directly, and out of ATAP, with a 2017 commercial release slated. Second, Rick Osterloh leading the effort to develop the phone, which will be the company’s first in-house smartphone that wasn’t build via a partner with another major OEM. This second piece of news isn’t that surprising, considering Google recently hired the former Motorola exec to run a unified hardware division within Google.
As for the hardware itself, Ara has grown up a bit since we last saw it. Google promises Ara will not only be thinner and more aesthetically pleasing (though they only shown us a brief teaser look at the final design – above), it will also now offer live-swapping of many components without shutting down — all by the power of your voice. That means “Okay, Google – eject the camera” will now be a thing. Ara also has six slots in total and you can put any module in any slot.
Okay, but how do we know more delays aren’t in the future? We don’t, but the good news is that a developer version of Ara will ship this fall. If Google is serious about getting the hardware into the hands of developers around the same time it shows off the next-gen Nexus family, that certainly raises the odds that Ara will be ready for primetime in 2017.
What do you think, are you still excited for Ara? Conversely has all the delays turned you off on the idea? Share your thoughts down below.