If you were hoping your next smartphone would be modular, it looks like you’ll be disappointed—at least, you will if you hoped it would be the modular Project Ara phone from Alphabet nee Google. The New York Times and Gizmodo report that Google has “suspended” the Project Ara phone project. It’s still possible the technology could be licensed to a third party, but it doesn’t seem too likely.
It’s perhaps not entirely a surprise that Google canned the project. As originally conceived, it would have been entirely modular, allowing consumers to upgrade their phone’s processor, memory, and display as well as components. However, as the project went along, the inner workings of the phone were locked in, with the modular aspects limited only to secondary items and accessories such as cameras. That removed a lot of the potential advantages of having a modular phone design right there.
It’s not as if it’s even the only phone that takes modular accessories now. As Gizmodo points out, both LG and Motorola have phones with modular accessory slots.
But then, none of this really has a lot of impact on e-reading. As originally conceived, Project Ara might have been great for people who wanted to read a lot of ebooks on the go—just swap out the energy-hog LCD for an easier-to-read e-ink screen that won’t drain the batteries so much. But that went by the wayside when Google decided to lock the display in, along with the rest of the phone’s guts.
Not that it really matters too much, in any event. We already have a lot of great inexpensive solutions for reading ebooks and consuming other digital content without needing a golly-gee-whiz modular device on top of that. If there should turn out to be a future for modular phones, surely someone else will get around to making one eventually.