Project Ara: Was the modular phone idea ahead of its time?

What first started as a promising concept into making phones more customized and modular, is now seeing the end of its days as Google is reportedly putting the wraps on it.

Project Ara had culminated over the past few years of Google’s and the public’s time, having been in the news a lot with new developments and features being announced at a consistent pace. The concept was simple and effective – swap parts of a phone to better customize its functionality.

Project Ara was first announced by Motorola three years ago.

Project Ara was first announced by Motorola three years ago.

Earlier, one would be able to swap every module of the phone – from the CPU, GPU, screen and everything in between. But this year, Project Ara had limited its portability and functionality to not allowing users to fiddle around with the aforementioned modules. So there really wasn’t any reason for one to buy the Ara now was there? This is probably why Google just decided to shut the whole operation entirely.

As of now, Google plans on uniting all their hardware developments into a single division. This comes just after Google cancelled manufacturing of their famed Pixel 2 Chromebook that received rave reviews on its performance and portability.

Suffice to say, Project Ara didn’t really have much of a chance to begin with. People were often speculative of the design and the fact that modules could be interchanged and hot-swappable meant that there would be more wear and tear within the models due to changing of the parts. Another issue is drivers and installing them when a new module is installed into the device may incur the unfortunate event of not being compatible.

The intention behind Project Ara can be validated though, because it introduced a pro-eco concept which encouraged reusing the device’s frame and instead, just swap the modules with modern newer ones, eliminating waste. But the connectivity behind such a feat would be impossible to achieve because in the long-term, the magnetic connectors would eventually deteriorate and make the modules work less efficiently.

And unlike a PC where any part of it can be interchanged effortlessly, a phone is more like an all-in-one – where everything is tightly integrated and can’t be replaced so easily. And considering how manufacturers configure and create their chipsets, audio modules and other such parts for a smartphone, it will be impossible for them to harmoniously connect them altogether through a single frame as there are various processes and design techniques that are applied in their creation.

So long, Ara. It was fun while it lasted.