Google delays Project Ara modular smartphone pilot til 2016

Google has scrapped plans to test Project Ara in Puerto Rico and postponed tests until next year.

Google has pushed back the public test of its modular Project Ara smartphone until 2016.

Google's Project Ara gets some new rivals as Finnish startups invent the next wave of modular devices

Google's Project Ara gets some new rivals as Finnish startups invent the next wave of modular devices

Handsets where you can upgrade hardware as easily as software have always been a dream for consumers. Now, that dream is fast becoming a reality.

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Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group, the team behind Project Ara, announced the roadmao for its Lego-inspired smartphone pilot had changed yesterday, nixing the original plan to start selling the devices from food trucks in Puerto Rico in the second half of this year.

In a series of tweets since Friday, Google revealed that the market tests will now happen at some point in 2016 at as yet undetermined locations in the US.

The reason for the delay, according to ATAP, is that Project Ara has undergone more iterations than initially expected.

Why? Lots of iterations... more than we thought. #ProjectAra

- Project Ara (@ProjectAra) August 17, 2015

With Project Ara, Google is aiming to change how smartphones are sold by offering consumers core components like the display, camera, processor and sensors that can be purchased separately and attached to a base unit that Google calls the Endoskeleton.

If the idea gets off the ground, the modular design could give consumers a cheaper way to upgrade handsets, allowing them to keep the same body and replace each component as needed. It also opens up new possibilities for module makers to develop specialised components that might not be available in other readymade smartphones.

Google had lined up Android device maker Yezz as one of its Ara partners. Yezz was to deliver around 20 to 30 modules for the now-scrapped Puerto Rico launch.

The project may also give Google a different answer to one the nuts its Android One initiative is yet to crack: creating appealing and high quality smartphones in the $50 to $100 price range. A Google exec in India announced last week that Android One will be revamped in the coming months alongside other big investments to improve connectivity in the country.

The changes to Project Ara come after other shakeups at Google, the largest of which is its Alphabet restructuring that separates Google's core revenue earning units, such as search and advertising, from experimental projects like the Loon connectivity effort and autonomous cars.

While ATAP, which has also developed smart fabric, is one of Google's more experimental lines, it will be staying with Google following the reorganisation.

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