Google delays Project Ara modular smartphone pilot launch until 2016

Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Project Ara, which is focused on creating modular smartphones consumers can customize, is delaying its pilot launch until 2016. The goal is to create smartphones that are made of different blocks that people can customize as they see fit -- for example, the wireless antenna, battery or camera.

The group, part of the search giant's Advanced Technology and Projects group, followed up on its promise from last week to divulge more about its plans after months of silence. "Where are we headed next? We are looking at a few locations in the U.S.," Project Ara said on its official Twitter account.

"When? 2016. #yeswearelate #ProjectAra," the group added. The main reason given? "Lots of iterations... more than we thought."

It appears as though the Project Ara team has been hard at work thinking about different module schemes users can create, but translating those concepts into a commercial reality is taking more time than the team thought it would.

And, as Re/code points out, and has been understood since Project Ara was announced in October 2013, the program represents a sea change in how consumers view and use smartphones as fully integrated electronics. While using different modules can reduce waste and give users more freedom to customize, such phones will also likely cost more and have weaker performance and battery life than phones that are built as an integrated package. Indeed, Re/code notes that Google acknowledged earlier in the year that around 20 percent to 30 percent of expected battery life was going toward communication among the modules.

Although Project Ara said last week that it was not forgetting about Puerto Rico, where it had intended to launch a pilot program in the second half of this year, it appears that those plans are shifting.

In January Google had said that when the Puerto Rican pilot launched, users would be able to alter or customize their devices using the Ara Marketplace and Ara Configurator apps to help manage the phone's different modules and troubleshoot issues. Google also planned to open several "food-truck"-style stores for consumers to actually test and explore the devices before they use them. Google said it aimed to have around 20 to 30 Ara modules available across 10 different categories by the time the pilot program launched.

For more:
- see this Twitter post
- see this Re/code article
- see this The Verge article 

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