At last! Here's when Project Ara modular phones are coming out

Project Ara 2016 news
Project Ara 2016 news

Google's Project Ara modular smartphone is still launching later this year, at least in beta form, the ATAP team announced at a developer session at Google IO 2016.

This is great news for anyone who was looking forward to the long-delayed phone with swappable parts. The LG G5 is only tiding us over with an upgradeable speaker and camera battery-grip parts so far.

Project Ara is different in that it's modular to the core, according to Google ATAP engineering lead Rafa Camargo. He called it a flexible and future-proof phone, meaning it could last you several years.

"We've integrated the phone technology in the frame that frees up space for modules that will create and integrate new functionality that you cannot get on your smartphone today," said Camargo.

Now for the Ara consumer release date

Project Ara is due out in a developer edition this fall, but that might not be the only version you want, unless you're daring and like to dabble in experimental electronics.

There will be a Project Ara consumer version that's much more refined, and will launch to the public in the spring of 2017, and a few months of a developer beta test.

The reason for two Project Ara release dates is that the Google ATAP team wants to know what the modules are that people want to create.

At first, Ara will come with the frame and a few modules to get things started. This may include swapping in a high-resolution camera, a louder speaker or a better battery.

What was really fascinating was when an integrated glucose sensor was shown on the Google IO stage. All of a sudden, tech that's essential to people's lives but ordinarily might never get phone integration has a chance with Project Ara.

The Google ATAP team is promising that the consumer version of Ara will be "thin, light and beautiful" in time for next spring. We'll have more in-depth Ara updates from Google IO this week.

Matt Swider