Project Ara, Google's modular smartphone, slated for release in 2017

In the meantime, the developer version will be available in the fourth quarter of 2016

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After hitting some bumps along the road over the past year, Google now plans to launch the consumer version of Project Ara, its modular smartphone, next year, the company announced at the Google I/O conference on Friday.

"It'll be thin, it'll be light, it'll be beautiful," declared Blaise Bertrand, Project Ara's head of creative.

The Ara team has integrated the phone's core technology into the phone frame, freeing up space for six modular slots built for flexibility. All the slots are generic and support any functionality, like a camera or a speaker. Each slot supports transfer rates of up to 11.9 Gbps, and they are interconnected via the UniPro network.

The developer version will be available in the fourth quarter of this year.

Google has already partnered with several companies to develop a range of modules, including Micron, Panasonic, Toshiba, Sony and iHealth. The modules, Bertrand said, can solve "specific user needs" -- such as a diabetic patient's need to carry a Glucometer, iHealth's version of a blood glucose meter. It turns out, he said, "Everything in a glucometer, besides a few sensors, is in a phone."

With the developer version, Bertrand said, Google wants to see "the modules you want to create."

Over the past year, Project Ara Technical and Engineering Lead Rafa Camargo said his team has built "a truly modular computing platform." He praised it for being "high speed, lower power and application independent."

With the phone built on an open platform, "we want to create a hardware ecosystem on the scale of the software app ecosystem," he said.

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