Project Ara, Google's dream for a truly modular smartphone, has been a long parade of exciting visions of the future punctuated by disappointing delays. But Google just made a big promise that developers will be be getting their hands on a device this spring with a consumer version due in 2017. Finally! Although Project Ara has been on Google's mind for years now, it's been hampered by hardware delays. The device was originally supposed to be part of a pilot program in Puerto Rico but that plan was axed in August.
After a year, Project Ara didn't have much to show for all its talk of the future, but it certainly inspired the smartphone old guard to run with the idea. This year's LG G5 adopted the modular phone principle with a removable "magic slot", and the upcoming Moto X and iPhone 7 are rumoured to have some kind of modular features.
But where those attempts are the cosy consumer version of what a modular smartphone can be, Project Ara is the rugged frontier: a patchwork of hardware with a number of different modules that anyone can decide how to mix and match. Finally, that dream sounds like it's almost ready.
At Google I/O, the Ara team demoed its swappable modules, swiping in an camera and snapping a pic all without rebooting the phone. Google's also released a short teaser video showing Ara in action.
If you're feeling adventurous, you can sign up for the a Project Ara dev unit right here.