The reason it seems to be taking an age for Google to develop Project Ara is that it’s actually incredibly complicated. It’s a bit like Frankenstein’s monster, just made up of different bits that might not all come from the same manufacturer.
And every part of the phone will unclip from the frame, letting you quickly swap it for a different module. But if you unclip something important, like the battery or processor, the phone will keep going until your replace it. And if you drop Project Ara, it doesn’t shatter into dozens of modules, yet it takes no force to take out a module. It really is an impressive bit of engineering.
To get that theory to a point where it works in the real world has taken a lot of time, but Google has managed it. At the end of May, at Google I/O 2015, the Frankenstein phone was brought to life on stage. Google engineer Rafa Camargo actually put together a set of modules in a few seconds and turned the phone on before taking a photo of the crowd. That must mean Project Ara is almost ready to go on sale.
Not so fast
Unfortunately, Google is cautious when it comes to revolutionary new products because it wants to make sure it’s got everything right – just look at the slow rollout of Google Glass – and that means Project Ara will go through plenty of testing before mortals like us can get hold of one.
At the start of the year, for example, Google said it would carry out a ‘market test’ in Puerto Rico before the end of 2015. This would see a version of the phone go on sale in the small country, with 20 - 30 modules available too.
Google hopes that the test will highlight any problems with the phone so it can tweak things and get it ready for a global launch. If Google gives that test six months to weed out all the little issues, we’ll be unlikely to see Project Ara in the UK before the middle of 2016.