Cast your mind back to recent years and you might recall a little something called Project Ara. This was a modular smartphone project created by Google, the sole remaining bit of the company’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility. You know, before that company was sold to Lenovo. Honestly, we thought that Ara was dead but a pair of new patent filings by Google late last year shows that they haven’t quite given up yet.
Two patents for a “Modular Device” device have been unearthed, one of which bears a resemblance to Motorola’s Moto Mods system, or that weird thing LG did with the G5 smartphone. The patent describes a device that can have new components added in. Components like a new camera sensor, battery, fitness tracker, or even an additional display, though it’s not certain whether users will be able to use multiple additions at a time. Hence its resemblance to Moto and LG’s efforts in this line.
But the other Google patent has a lot more in common with the Project Ara we know and love. It consists of a device that “…includes a plurality of electronic modules”, modules that can “…receive the plurality of electronic modules at the plurality of bays.” In English, it’s a single device body that can accept a range of different options is on the cards, should Google happen to use this patent in practise. Which we’re not expecting them to (soon, anyway), because ‘patent’ doesn’t always equal ‘product’.
The search giant may have stopped development of modular hardware in 2016, albeit with a bit of a false return for 2017, but it seems the company hasn’t stopped thinking about creating one of the last phones you’ll have to buy. It’s possible that Google is simply thinking of licensing modular tech to other companies or, as is often the case, is simply covering its bases in case it wishes to try again at some point in the future. After all, we’ve got folding phones on the way now. Modular, once thought to be impractical, might not be that far behind.