Footage: Google’s Project Ara Is Progressing; Will It Succeed?

Whatever it may actually end up being, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) seems intent on ensuring that it is at the forefront of the next big step forward in mobile devices. Many in the mobile industry were caught with their guard down when Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) unveiled the iPhone that would define the smartphone category. Whether the next big thing is smartwatches or augmented-reality headsets, Google is aiming for the front of the pack. And if it happens to be modular phones, the video above shows the company is still pushing for it with Project Ara.

Last year there was a viral push from web-users led by Phonebloks calling out for a modular phone — one that could have various components switched in and out on the fly. If the phone camera isn’t cutting it, a user could slide out the camera unit and put in a better camera. If the processor is a year old and too slow for the latest apps, a new one could be slid in to replace it. The concept even included different screens and physical keyboard setups.

The viral call for phone developers to start making these — partly because they impress people technologically, and partly because they could keep a lot of material out of landfills — was pronounced enough that the developers would have had a hard time ignoring it. China’s ZTE showed off a concept for a modular phone called the Eco-Mobius at CES this year, but it was kept in a display case and there has been very little news about it since then. Google’s Project Ara has been a little more visible.

Though little could be seen in the video of Project Ara demonstrating full functionality, it’s clear Google isn’t letting the concept slip away. The pairing of a permanent magnet and an electro-magnet, which would act to hold the various components in place, was one of the more notable features shown in the video.

While there may be hope for the project to take off, especially if more smartphone makers start getting on board with their own devices, the question remains whether it will have a place in the tech environment down the road.

Once smartwatches gain more prominence — as Google is also pushing for with its wearable-focused version of Android — people may become less interested in carrying around comparably bulky smartphones. The same could be true if Google Glass sets the market on fire when it receives a commercial release.

Project Ara does seem like it’s a ways away from seeing commercial release. If it ever does, it will most assuredly be after any before Android Wear devices and Google Glass. However, Google has been definitely crunching on the project. Paul Eremenko, the head of project Ara, said that Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group was planning to have a commercially available model in the first months of 2015, reports Time. And it’s aiming to sell bare-bones models to the tune of $50, which certainly could lend to their ability to flood the market. Just $50 for what might be the next big step in smartphone technology seems like a hard opportunity to pass up, though more modules would obviously start to boost the cost quickly.

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