Google's Project Ara modular smartphone concept cancelled

Google has suspended Project Ara, its project to create a modular smartphone with interchangeable components that could be swapped out by the user.

Internal sources have said that the internet search company is attempting to streamline its hardware efforts which led to Ara’s cancellation.

The move marks an about-face for the tech company, which announced a host of partners for Project Ara at its developer conference in May and said it would ship a developer edition of the product this autumn.

The company's aim was to create a phone that users could customize on the fly with an extra battery, camera, speakers or other components.

A spokeswoman for Google declined to comment on the matter.

While Google will not be releasing the phone itself, the company may work with partners to bring Project Ara's technology to market, potentially through licensing agreements.

Axing Project Ara is one of the first steps in a campaign to unify Google's various hardware efforts, which range from Chromebook laptops to Nexus phones.

Former Motorola president Rick Osterloh rejoined Google earlier this year to oversee the effort. Google sold Motorola Mobility to Lenovo Group in 2014. 

Modular smartphones have generated great enthusiasm in the tech community for their potential to prolong the lifespan of a device and reduce electronic waste. Dutch company Fairphone, for example, are one of the leaders in this field with a commercial product in the marketplace. 

However, the modular devices are difficult to bring to market because their interchangeable parts make them bulky and costly to produce, said analyst Bob O'Donnell of TECHnalysis Research, adding that he was not surprised to see Google halt the project.

"This was a science experiment that failed and they are moving on," he said.

Project Ara was one of the flagship efforts of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group, which aims to develop new devices, but it had various stops and starts.

Last year, the company shelved plans to sell the modular phone in Puerto Rico with Latin American carriers.

Earlier this year, Google unveiled a virtual assistant that converses with its users, a new VR platform called Daydream and a messaging service dubbed Allo. 

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