Google’s Project Ara Modular Phone to Finally Get Released…Sorta
Just recently at the Dark Android Blog I was talking about how modular phones–as they stand right now with the offerings from various manufacturers–are largely a scam. The idea is good, as I said, but its present implementation–like with the LG G5–leaves much to be desired. Basically what manufacturers are doing today is selling you a significantly less powerful phone from last year’s flagships, for the same price (if not more) as last year’s flagships, and then upselling you modules to get your phone to the more powerful state that a successive flagship phone should be. It’s a scam because the whole point of modular phones was either to sell you a base model that you could add on modules of your choice to at a lower cost, or for you to at least have a more powerful phone sold at a standard price that can be enhanced all the more. Again, that’s not how it’s working out right now.
In the aforementioned write-up, I also mentioned the promise that was supposed to be Google’s Project Ara. Project Ara was a Google acquisition that really showed off what a modular phone could be; switching out batteries from more RAM, replacing a camera module with a larger speaker, etc., it’s pretty awesome. In Fall 2015, Google was supposed to release Project Ara phones to the public, and like so many things Google, it didn’t happen, and many people–myself included–started to chalk it up to another example of Google acquiring or starting something and then canning it quietly and quickly.
SIDE NOTE: Google acquired Project Ara, probably because they rightly saw its potential. But let’s keep in mind that Google didn’t innovate here with the idea of the modular smartphone, the merely bought the company out that actually pulled off the innovation.
But apparently Project Ara lives, and it will instead be released Fall 2016. Not that you’ll be able to get your hands on it, since this will merely be a developer edition getting released, which could mean that it won’t hit the mass market for at least a couple of years. Check out the video about it for yourself:
As we’ve reached what many tech journalists (myself included) call “peak smartphone”–which is the idea that smartphone innovation has come to a standstill–I’m sure manufacturers (including Google) can ride the wave of present smartphone stylings for at least a couple more years, and then serious modular phones like Project Ara will finally hit the market to get people all excited again.
SIDE NOTE: Also releasing this Fall is Google’s new Virtual Reality platform on Android: “Daydream”. Daydream apparently won’t work on any phones that are on the market today, and it does require Android N, so that will just be another marketing ploy to get people to buy new phones later this year, and will stay the hand of releasing Project Ara to the populous. Granted, just as I’m excited about truly modular phones, I’m also excited about Daydream. You have to understand, the “VR revolution” isn’t going to happen by making people purchase thousands of dollars of equipment so they can run the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive…no, no, VR is happening on mobile, inexpensively. Interesting to note, Nintendo realized the mobile VR revolution back in the 1990’s with the Virtual Boy console.
As to what shape (besides rectangular) that even these developer edition Project Ara phones will take overall is anyone’s guess, and I still think it’s an awesome idea, and I look forward to it. But I’ll admit that I have my doubts that it will hit the consumer market any time soon…if at all. With Google’s track record, there’s the chance Project Ara will NEVER see the light of day.