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Google aims to launch its consumer Project Ara phone in 2017

Engadget Engadget 20/05/2016 Chris Velazco
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Despite some grim portents last year, Project Ara is far from dead. It now has its own business unit at Google (says newly installed ATAP chief Dan Kaufman), and the nearly magical modular hardware we've been anticipating for years is slowing getting closer. ATAP Head of Creative Blaise Bertrand confirmed at Google I/O today that a new developer phone will be available in Q4 of this year, with a "thin, light, beautiful" consumer Ara phone to follow in 2017.

Considering the ATAP team's early progress, it seemed for a while that the predicted launch in 2016 was at lease plausible. Still, the time away from the spotlight seems to have done the entire project a lot of good -- the version showed off on stage today was considerably sleeker than iterations we've seen in the past. Modules used to be separated from each other by a thick metal grid, for instance, a technical necessity that didn't really look great. Now, there's essentially no boundary between modules, lending the phone a more unified -- if still eclectic -- look.

The new Ara frame supports up to six modules, though future frames can be larger or smaller. (Don't worry: future modules will be compatible with earlier Ara devices.) Most importantly, it seems much, much easier to install modules and start using them. All you have to do is plug one in and you're good to go -- the process doesn't even require a reboot. Ejecting them is simple too, if a little more involved: you'll have to jump into the settings app and select which module you want to eject. Once done, the module physically pops up from the back of the device. You'll even be able to eject modules voice commands like "OK Google, eject the camera."

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