Google announced that its planet-friendly Project Ara phone has taken a leap forward in development and will be on trial sale in Puerto Rico later this year.

Project Ara was originally developed in secret by Motorola and came out of hiding after Dutch designer Dave Hakkens’ Phoneblocks concept went viral. Google may have been working on its own independent modular phone plans when it bought Motorola Mobility. Although that company was since sold to Lenovo, Google kept Project Ara as part of the deal.

So what’s the big idea? In a nutshell, very expensive phones have become more or less disposable in many countries. Although most of the components of a phone might work fine, the camera might be out of date, or a new battery or screen might be needed. Some parts are toxic, and they often end up as e-waste in the developing world. The concept of Project Ara is to have a modular phone, basically a skeleton into which one slides modules. So if a hot new camera comes out, you can just swap it into your phone without ditching the whole device.

There are a lot of technical hurdles to overcome. For one, phones with integrated components tend to have much better battery life.

Still, it’s great news to see Google making progress, and we look forward to seeing what they deliver. The Verge got to play with a prototype Project Ara device. The website was intrigued but concluded “it still has many months to go before you’ll be able to go to a store and buy it.”

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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