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Google quietly kills ‘Project Ara’ modular smartphone

UPDATE: Following reports earlier on Friday, a Google spokesperson has now confirmed the Mountain View-based company has ceased work on Project Ara.

While declining to offer further details, or issuing a statement, the spokesperson confirmed to VentureBeat the plan to bring modular smartphones to market has been suspended after more than three years of development.

Google did not address previous claims by Reuters that it may seek to license the technology to other smartphone manufacturers.

Original report continues below...

Google has “suspended” its efforts on Project Ara, the modular smartphone with interchangeable components, apparently.

The project, which Google began exploring in 2012, will now take a backseat as “part of a broader push to streamline the company’s hardware efforts”. That’s according to a new report from Reuters that cites two unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter.

The timing is curious, as Google only recently announced a number of new partners for Project Ara at the Google I/O developer conference back in May. At the time, Google also pledged to ship a developer edition of the Project Ara smartphone as soon as autumn, and even released this funky-fresh promo video:

Project Ara is a codename for a work-in-progress device that it was hoped would revolutionise the mobile industry. It was basically a computer board with an endoskeletal frame that components or ‘modules’ – like a display, camera, or battery – could be attached to. This would make it easy to swap out and upgrade smartphone components on the fly, extending smartphone lifespans and potentially reducing waste.

The idea was borne out of Motorola Mobility, acquired by Google in 2011, as early as 2012, with official work on the project beginning on April 1, 2013. Project Ara was publicly announced in October that year, and has since become one of Google’s most well-known moonshots in recent years.

According to Reuters, Google will not be released the phone itself, but may work with other partners to bring the technology to market, potentially “through licensing agreements”.

Project AraProject Ara would have pieced together like Lego

This news comes on the same day as rumours that Google would be scrapping its ‘Nexus’ brand for in-house smartphones, replacing it with the ‘Pixel’ brand instead. It’s expected that two new phones – the Pixel and Pixel XL – will launch in the coming months.

Google has not yet confirmed publicly that Project Ara has been shelved, so take today’s Reuters report with due caution.

Related: IFA 2016

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What did you think of Project Ara? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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