Mobile

Google said to be putting Project Ara modular phone on hold

Ambitious project was expected to have detachable hardware components that could be swapped out according to users' needs.

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Google has shelved plans for its Project Ara, its ambitious plan for a modular phone.

Google

Google parent Alphabet has suspended Project Ara, its ambitious attempt to build a smartphone that lets you swap out its parts like Lego blocks, Reuters reported late Thursday. A Google spokesperson further confirmed the news to VentureBeat on Friday.

Though Google has no plans to release the phone, the handset may still find itself into consumers' hands through licensing agreements with third parties, Reuters reported, citing unidentified sources.

The revelation marks an abrupt about-face for Google, which promised at its annual developers conference in May that its long-awaited modular phone would be available to developers by the end of this year.

Unveiled in October 2013 by then-Google property Motorola, the handset was expected to have detachable hardware components that could be swapped out according to users' needs. Long the dream of the mobile industry, this would allow users to customize their device according to their preferences, such as a camera module with a higher megapixel count for camera enthusiasts.

But the project failed to deliver on its promises. The modular tech failed repeatedly in demonstrations. The prototype was all set to start a pilot program in Puerto Rico, but that was suddenly canceled, with barely an explanation. There were tweets from the project's team that suggested company was rethinking how the components linked together.

Alphabet representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Updated September 2, 3:13 p.m. PT: Added VentureBeat's report that a Google spokesperson confirmed the hold.