A modular phone that will let you snap on and pull off different components as you wish will finally launch this fall, Google has announced.
The Ara project was originally announced in October 2013 and was part of the acquired Motorola Mobility business. Since then it has become part of Google's Advanced Technology and Products (ATAP) division.
Despite periodically putting out videos touting Ara's possibilities, however, little has been heard about the project and many assumed it was going the way of so many other Google projects: into the trash.
Not so. And ATAP Head of Creative, Blaise Bertrand, said at Google's I/O conference on Friday that the phone will launch to developers in the fourth quarter of this year, with a consumer version put out sometime in 2017.
The phone even has a website, complete with more videos, so it must be happening.
Back in 2013 when it was announced, the team behind it said they wanted "to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software" and create a market for third-party hardware components that work with the phone.
A modular phone could, in theory, make it much cheaper for companies to create phone components and so introduce a degree of innovation not currently possible.
The phone itself was originally designed to have a central "endoskeleton" which has now become a "baseplate" onto which other modules can be attached. The idea is that different kinds of displays, keyboards, speakers or even extra batteries can be attached to create the phone you want.
Is this a genius idea that will bring about a revolution in phones and what they can do? Or is a horrible idea that will see people building monster-sized phones just to get what they can already get in their current phone? Who knows but starting later this year, we can finally start to find out. ®