Project Ara is finally back on track after multiple delays and false starts, but it turns out Google’s new modular smartphone is actually a scaled-back version of the original concept. The device that launches next year won’t be as modular as we originally thought, with several key components locked-in instead.
Speaking to CNET, lead engineer Rafa Camargo explained why they company decided to stray for its initial promise. It turns out that people don’t really care if they can swap out the processor and other technical components. They’re more interested in adding new speakers, cameras and other fun features.
“When we did our user studies, what we found is that most users don’t care about modularizing the core functions,” he said. “They expect them all to be there, to always work, and to be consistent.”
So certain core components, like the processor, will be unswappable in Project Ara, at least for now. Camargo added that the technology still works and it could come with a later version of the modular device.
Limiting the first Ara phones to a single processor may make them easier to produce and use, but it also undercuts one of Google’s biggest promises: a longer lifespan. Once that built-in chip becomes obsolete after a couple of years, you’ll want to trade up for a newer version entirely.
Of course, there’s still plenty to love when it comes to Project Ara. If Google needs to dumb down the technology to bring it to market that’s alright, but it’s still a bit of a letdown.