Video from 2014 concept introduction

Google, Inc. is finally bringing its modular Android phone, Project Ara, to market with developers being able to get their hands on the device later this year.

Project Ara was first conceived by Motorola Mobility, Inc. back in 2013, and was retained by Google when it sold the company to Lenovo; the concept of the project was to deliver free, open hardware for modular smartphones where a user is able to swap out the various aspects of the phone for new alternatives when they became available, a phone that could be upgraded as the years progressed.

The idea of a fully modular phone, however, has been abandoned by Google, who in a presentation at their I/O developer conference Friday showed a phone which is, for a lack of a better term, only partially modular.

Google’s new Project Ara phone has lost the ability for users to swap out the processor, RAM, and perhaps more disappointingly the screen given the emergence of Google’s own Daydream VR platform will see many users looking for improved screen technology in the coming years.

The negatives aside, the new version of the phone maximizes the space of the modules by fitting more of then into the set frame and offers six slots that are compatible with any module to support any functionality.

According to 9to5Google, a Unipro network connects the modules to the frame in a high speed and low power way, with an additional electromagnetic latch connecting the modules to the frame with the connector capable of 10,000 cycles.

Modules themselves are plug in and play, with the ability for a user to plug in a camera module and immediately take a picture; to remove a module a user must eject the device which can be done via saying “Ok Google, eject the camera” or via a dedicated app.

Modules designed so far include speakers, high-resolution cameras, expandable storage, and others, and partners designing modules for Project Ara include Samsung, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, E-Ink, Toshiba, Harmon, and iHealth.

Serious business

While Project Ara has been watered down somewhat from its original design intent, Google is taking the business seriously and announced at the same time that it is spinning the phone out of its Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) research lab into its own standalone Google unit.

That decision may come to be a milestone for Google, as it now has its own dedicated smartphone development and manufacturing arm; yes, unlike Google’s range of Nexus devices, which are made by third party vendors with Google branding, the Project Ara phone is being made by Google itself.

The Project Ara phone will be available to developers in the fourth quarter of this year, with an aim to have a consumer version on sale at some stage in 2017.

Google’s Project Ara modular Android phone developer edition coming in Q4 | SiliconANGLE