Google’s Project Ara smartphones keep falling apart

The search giant explains one of the reasons it has postponed the launch of its build-it-yourself smartphones: They don’t keep intact if you drop them.

Smartphone makers like Apple and Samsung rigorously stress test their phones before the companies release them to make sure they can handle the abuse of being out in the real world.

With Google’s Project Ara smartphones, which aims to let people build their phones from interchangeable parts, we already know how the drop test went: not well.

Google explained Wednesday that it is taking more time to develop the product because the phones keep falling apart. That’s because the separate components of the phone snap together like Legos. They’re held in place by what Google calls “electropermanent” magnets. It turns out the magnets couldn’t keep the phone intact during drop tests, so the company said it is looking to other technology.

Google didn’t give much detail about how the phone will work in the future, other than to say it is “testing a signature experience” to attach and detach the different parts.

Project Ara is Google’s attempt to shake up how consumers buy smartphones and how manufacturers make them. Instead of buying a complete phone, like an iPhone 6 or a Samsung Galaxy S6, Google wants to let people buy the parts — such as the camera, processor or screen — separately and mix and match them as consumers please. The initiative is just one of many out-there projects — like driverless cars or Wi-Fi balloons — that Google has invested in as it looks to where future revenue will come from.

Google hopes Ara will speed up development and innovation in the separate components that make up a phone, as hardware makers begin to compete for real estate on a handset.

The announcement on Wednesday is just the latest setback for Project Ara. Last week, Google said the company was scrapping its test launch of the phones in Puerto Rico as previously planned. Earlier this week, Google said the launch would also be postponed until 2016 and that the team is looking for a test market in the US.

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