Google plans to launch a pilot program for its Project Ara smartphone… but that pilot won’t be in Puerto Rico as originally planned, and it won’t be in 2015 as originally planned either.
Earlier this year the company outlined vague plans for a “marketing pilot” that would allow customers to configure and purchase modular smartphones from wireless carriers in Puerto Rico. But last week the company posted messages on Twitter saying that the project would take place somewhere else.
Project Ara is an unusual idea: While smartphone manufacturers like Samsung are no longer offering removable batteries or microSD card readers in their flagship phones, Google is developing a project that would let you not only swap out batteries or storage cards, but also cameras, displays, speakers, and other hardware.
The idea is that you would be able to buy an endoskeleton which is the basic frame of a smartphone, and attach the modules you need. Many of those modules are even hot-swappable, which means you’d be able to add an extra battery or two or switch from a standard camera to an infrared camera without even rebooting the phone.
This could make phones more versatile… and it could help you hang onto your hardware for longer. Instead of replacing your phone every few years, you might only need to replace the components that you’re no longer happy with.
While that could certainly be a more environmentally-friendly way to upgrade, it’ll be interesting to see if individuals want to upgrade on a module-by-module basis rather than swapping out an entire phone for a new model. After all, wireless carriers like T-Mobile are now offering customers the option of switching phones up to 3 times a year.
Google’s been working on the technology that makes Project Ara phones possible for a few years. So why the delay in launching a pilot program? It’s not entirely clear, but the Project Ara Team posted a note on Twitter that says “Why? Lots of iterations… more than we thought,” which suggests that there may still be some logistical kinks that need to be worked out before the project is ready for a public trial.