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September 2, 2016updated 09 Sep 2016 9:31am

Google suspends Project Ara in drive to unify hardware business

News: Modular technology would allow users to upgrade individual components of a smartphone.

By Alexander Sword

Google has suspended the modular smartphone development programme Project Ara as part of a broader effort to streamline its mobile business.

The project may now be released through partners who will help bring the technology to market, according to sources cited in a Reuters report.

The abandonment of the project will allow Google to unify its various hardware efforts, including the Chromebook laptops and Nexus phones.

Project Ara’s technology would allow customers to buy the basic phone structure and then incorporate modules including keyboard, battery or other sensors. Users can upgrade the same phone by adding on more advanced modules as they see fit, prolonging the life of a device as the demands of the software running on it becomes more demanding.

The idea behind Project Ara was to do for hardware what the Android operating system had done for software, by giving users more control over their devices. Developers would also be free to innovate around individual phone parts by producing their own modules.

The project was announced by Google-owned Motorola Mobility back in 2013 as a collaborative effort between Motorola and Dutch designer Dave Hakkens, responsible for open source modular phone project Phonebloks.

It built on Motorola’s push into customisation, which allowed customers to choose certain features of their smartphone such as the material and the colour.

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The decision to abandon Project Ara comes only months after Google demonstrated a prototype of it at its developer conference and announced that it would begin shipping developer editions later in the year.

It also said at Google I/O that it planned to have a consumer model of Ara on sale in 2017.

Google previously shelved plans to pilot the Project Ara phone in Puerto Rico in 2015. The first prototype of the device had been unveiled in 2014 but experienced problems booting.

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