It was always our biggest concern after learning about the modular smartphone project that is Google’s Project Ara has always been its durability. What happens if you drop the phone? Will all the individual pieces go scattering around the floor? Visions of a $150 camera module slipping down a sewer drain, or a RAM module stuck under the car seat seemed very real to us. It now appears that the short answer is… well, yes. Yes it will fall apart. But the team is doing something about it.
Ara was originally designed to use electropermanent magnets, providing enough energy to securely keep the modules in place, while still allowing them to slide out with a minimal use of force. It seemed like a good idea, but the team has tweeted today that it wasn’t enough to survive an actual drop test. Because of this, they’ll have to think of a new way of securing the modules in place, although what those options are remains to be seen.
We had originally assumed that delays in Project Ara’s pilot — which is now gunning for the US — was due to the recent fallout surrounding Toshiba, one of Ara’s major hardware partners. Turns out they may have just had trouble keeping the dang thing from falling apart. Who knew.