Innovation Nation: Project Ara


Originally posted at

Years ago, a video went viral. It proposed a radical change in the way that we view and consume electronics–a phone with exchangable parts, which would allow users to swap out components when they broke, became obsolete, or even just weren’t needed that day. It challenged us to come up with a way to create a modular smartphone that didn’t need to be ‘upgraded’ every 2 years. The plan would reduce costly electronics waste, save consumers money, and allow us all to get out of our phones exactly what we wanted.


A bigger camera? Sure, you could get a module for that. Better battery life? No problem. Just want a phone to make calls with? The fully customizable nature of the phone would allow you to choose the most cost-effective components and cut out all the bells and whistles.

The video spread like wildfire, and the idea was picked up by Google. Prototypes were made. Teams were created and shifted. Programs were written, then re-written. And then, after months and months of progress updates and tech demos, Project Ara, as it was dubbed by Google, went dark.

The challenges of designing a modular phone were certainly greater than imagined by the creator of the original Phonebloks video. But if Google couldn’t pull it off, who could? The hype died down in the following months of radio silence, and Project was all but buried and forgotten.

But, towards the end of March 2016, some observant tech bloggers noticed something–Project Ara’s site had been given a facelift. Currently, it is only one page, emblazoned with a new logo for the project. But, could they be gearing up for something big? Websites cost money, and it’s hard to see even Google bothering to update the site if they weren’t planning on going somewhere with it.

While we’re not holding our breath for the rumored 2016 launch, we may see more on Project Ara soon. The fantasy of the ‘last phone you’ll ever buy’ isn’t dead yet.

Would you buy a modular phone? What components would you want to put on yours? Let us know in the comments.