After countless delays, Google’s modular Project Ara smartphone is coming out next year

Google’s innovative Project Ara is still on the way.

It’s strange Google didn’t lead its I/O Keynote on Wednesday with this information, but Blaise Bertrand, the head of the company’s ATAP division, has finally confirmed Google is still working on the project, and that a consumer version of the modular device will arrive in 2017.

The developer edition of the smartphone is due slightly earlier, launching at some point this fall. The only way to get your hands on a developer edition is to navigate over to ATAP’s Ara website and fill out a developer device application.

Google also says that it has spun Ara off as an independent company structure wise and that the project has “graduated” to becoming a legitimate business opportunity. According to Google’s presentation today, Ara’s development team is “working with a new set of technologies” and the phone now features an integrated metallic frame and six modular slots. Each slot is also now generic, allowing users to plug whatever hardware they see fit into each area of the Lego-like smartphone.

During Google’s presentation today an engineer attached a camera module to Project Ara’s base and then snapped a photo, all without even turning the device off. Removing a module only requires navigating to settings or saying “Ok Google, eject the camera.” According to Google, all project Ara modules are now controlled with just software and a button on the side of the smartphone launches an overview of what modules are currently installed.

Early development partners reportedly include Panasonic, TDK, iHealth, E Ink, Toshiba, Sony and Samsung. It’s important to note that Google’s Project Ara smartphone is only as useful as the modules powering it, and despite how impressive the concept of a modular smartphone is, Ara’s current design seems a little obtuse and bulky.