Project Ara was delayed because its electropermanent magnets failed drop tests

Shawn Knight

Posts: 12,409   +121
Staff member

Google revealed earlier this week that the pilot program for its modular smartphone had been delayed until 2016. What’s more, the search giant said the test would no longer take place in Puerto Rico as the company was instead courting a few locations in the US.

The Project Ara team noted on Twitter that it had to create more prototypes than initially anticipated, thus leading to the delay. The team has since revealed exactly what caused the delay (or at least, one of the issues).

Project Ara’s modular components are held in place by electropermanent magnets which consist of a permanent magnet and an electromagnet. This method was said to offer a more dependable and durable connection while still allowing users to easily swap out modules on-the-fly.

It seemed like a great idea when it was revealed last year but internal testing has apparently proven otherwise. The team recently said on Twitter that the electropermanent magnets #FailedTheDropTest. A follow-up tweet said they are now testing a signature experience to attach / detach modules but didn't elaborate any further.

While it’s true that most users would end up putting their modular smartphone inside a protective case, a setback of this magnitude after years of development is no doubt disappointing. Hopefully the team’s new method is able to get the job done. Still no word yet on when and where the pilot will take place.

Permalink to story.



Posts: 349   +132
That could be a fun party trick though! Drop your phone and watch everyone panic as it breaks into several peices - then just put them back together and it works!


Posts: 857   +204
I've been following this project for a long time. I really hope that they can hit the market with a working model in the near future. It's unfortunate that they've had to delay the pilot due to engineering issues. No-one wants a phone that doesn't pass the drop test though. With that said, I do worry about its practicality when compared to it's competition. If it came out today, I can only see enthusiasts taking the plunge rather than the non-technical relative or friend.


Posts: 69   +53
I love this project but there is no way this phone is going to be worth it compared to other phones on the market. simply put the hole point of this project was, its a phone you only have to buy once. but its brand new tech which can improve. one thing that can improve is the electromagnet system. when I watched google IO last year they said that the electromagnetic system would take up 1/3 of each modular components. they also said they are working on improving that. as time goes on the body of the phone will need to be updated and I don't think they can make that backwards compatible.


Posts: 132   +28
Its crap anyway. you cant get a small phone with mighty powers, now u can only build your own huge fugly phone with mighty powers...


Posts: 2,982   +1,175
When I first heard about this idea I said it was trash, and still think that way. After Project Ara fails, SteamOS will be next....


Posts: 13   +1
If each module had a hole right through it with contact points within the module and a pin that went through each module and the housing itself, it could work...