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Google's Crazy Modular Smartphone Is Officially On Its Way

Project Ara is finally coming to market. Developers get it in late 2016, consumers in 2017.

Posted on May 20, 2016, at 7:39 p.m. ET

This is Project Ara.


It's Google's crazy modular smartphone, and the company is finally preparing to ship it after delays last year.

It has a ton of parts.


That's the point: Ara is a phone that can be rebuilt in many different ways, and reassembled easily. It's kind of like a smartphone made out of Legos.

It's a radically different way to think about how we use our phones. Instead of buying a phone based on specs, Google wants you to configure Ara according to what you want to do with it. That could mean switching in better camera when you're heading to a wedding, or loading up a bigger battery in preparation for a business trip.

Ara was developed by Google's Advanced Technologies & Projects division (ATAP), which works on some of the craziest ideas at the company — like Project Jacquard's touch-sensitive fabric.

Later this year, we'll start seeing Ara in the wild.


Right now, about 30 people within Google are using the Project Ara phones. But the company is gearing up to give the device a soft release: A developer version of Ara will ship before the end of the year, with a consumer version to follow in 2017.

Google is dedicating a new division of the company to Ara.


Since it was first announced well over a year ago, Project Ara has been an experimental project. Now, it's becoming it's own division within Google, a graduation of sorts from ATAP. This was a long time coming — the phone was scheduled to be tested in Puerto Rico in 2015. But that pilot program was put on hold because, according to Google, there were "lots of iterations... more than we thought."

When Ara ships, it will be a little scaled back from the original concept Google showed off last year.


Last year at Google I/O, a project Ara presenter basically built a phone in front of a crowd. Now, the finished product is going to be a smartphone that works right out of the box — it just comes with tons of possible customizations. Google also created standards for all of device's ports, so developers can build third party additions.


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.