Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone dream may be over

Reuters’ Julia Love is reporting that Google is shelving its plans to ship Project Ara, a system for building smartphones out of snap-together tiles that can contain components such as screens, cameras, and wireless radios. Part of the company’s ATAP group, Ara was designed to let people in emerging countries buy a very basic phone, then upgrade it with additional features as their budgets allowed.

I wrote a long piece about Ara back in February 2014, when the effort was young and the goal was to get a phone on the market by early 2015. That timetable didn’t pan out, and both ATAP’s founder, Regina Dugan, and original Ara leader Paul Eremenko ended up leaving Google. As of May of this year, however, the company was still planning to ship a developer version this year and a consumer one in 2017.

Love’s sources say that Google might partner with others to get Project Ara phones to market. But at this point, you’d have to be a wild-eyed optimist to assume that the company will ever succeed in turning this concept—which always had a sci-fi feel to it—into reality.