Google will Begin Selling Modular Phones Next Year


Alphabet Inc.’s Google announced its plans of selling its phones from next year. The company will begin the sale of its modular phones that have replaceable parts a full two years later than it was planned initially. Dubbed Ara, the project is part of an aggressive effort by the search engine giant to upend the mobile industry by making the hardware of smartphones customizable in the same way as apps are. On Friday, the company showed how you could snap different parts on the phone’s back, which included speakers, high-powered camera lenses, a holder for breath mints or a glucometer for diabetic patients.

The project has had a troubled and rocky history. It was launched by the company in 2013 under the phone maker Motorola, which had been owned by Google back then. Later, Ara was moved into the Advanced Technology and Projects Group of the firm, a lab with the aim of bringing futuristic technologies in the market in a period of two years. The advanced-technology group stated in 2015 that they would be launching a modular phone in Puerto Rico in the latter half of the year. However, the plans were scrapped by the group seven months later and they extended the project’s timeline of two years.

According to sources close to the matter, the Ara team had been facing trouble in trying to move the phone from the prototype stage to large-scale production. On Friday, a Google spokeswoman said that after listening to consumers and developers, changes had been made to the Ara phone, which included the installation of additional technology in the base of the device for clearing room for more modules. Google executives spoke at the annual programmers’ conference of the company on Friday and said that Ara had been moved to its own business unit.

They said that the Ara phones would be given to developers in the later part of this year and would hit the consumer market in 2017. The advanced-technology group was taken over by Dan Kaufman last month after Regina Dugan, the former Pentagon research chief joined Facebook Inc. He said that Ara was a vision for phones of the future. Google’s Android mobile operating system will power the Ara device and the base would be made by the company itself or it may join hands with a hardware partner as it does when making its Nexus smartphones.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Google said that it was still too early to give a price estimate for the phone. Last year, the company had said that the cost of the phone base would be around $50. Rick Osterloh, Google’s hardware chief said that some phone modules would be made by Google, but the company wants the new components to be made by outsiders. The company said that it was working with various companies for making the modules, which included Panasonic Corp., Sony Corp and Samsung Electronics. Sony said that they would be licensing content for the device and not make any hardware. 

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