Google's Project Ara modular smartphone venture is alive and well. In fact, it'll get a consumer launch next year.
Blaise Bertrand, the head of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group, announced at Google I/O 2016 that a new developer phone will be available in the fourth quarter of this year. But that's not all... A refined, consumer version will launch in 2017. That phone is being described as thin, light, and beautiful, while a new developer phone, which you can learn more about from here, is being touted as sleek.
The message is clear: ATAP has done a lot with Project Ara over the last year in terms of making an Ara phone look more unified and premium. The modules, for instance, are no longer separated by a chunky metal grid. Instead, they sit flush against each other. The current Ara frame can handle up to six modules (though frames will come in larger and smaller sizes). Simply plug a module into the frame, and voila.
Unlike the LG G5's modules, you won't need to reboot Ara every time you plug in a module. If you want to remove one, however, you need to go into Settings and eject it. The module will pop up and you can grab it. Easy peasy. You'll even be able to eject them with a voice command such as "OK Google, eject the speaker" or "OK Google, eject the camera". And that's it. Speaking of modules, ATAP is working with partners.
These partners are now developing for the venture. So far, E Ink is making small, secondary displays. Google also has Toshiba, Gotenna, and strangely, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on board. Who knows what those other companies are planning. Developers won't know either, because the ones who get pre-release kits this year will receive theirs with only a few modules.
Still, these are definitely exciting times. Check out Google's new video below to see what else is next for Project Ara.