Speculation is rampant about the future of Google's incredibly ambitious Project Ara modular phone after news broke a few days ago that the planned 2015 test run in Puerto Rico had been cancelled. Now the Project Ara Twitter accounted has shared a tidbit of news that might offer a partial explanation of the delay. The electropermanent magnets that were supposed to hold the hardware modules in place don't pass drop tests.
— Project Ara (@ProjectAra) August 19, 2015
The tweet is succinct, with no details about how the magnets fail, but I think we can safely assume the modules are ejected from the device quite energetically on impact. An electropermanent magnet can be switched on and off electrically, but it doesn't require power to remain magnetized. It seems like an ideal solution for a modular phone, but apparently the connection simply isn't strong enough.
So Google will have to use something else to secure the modules to the phone. Velcro? Duct tape? Rubber bands? But really, it's probably going to be some sort of physical clip system that isn't so prone to crumbling if it gets dropped.
They were joking, kind of
The Ara Twitter account says the bit about the drop test was a joke, but that's not funny. They still aren't using magnets, though, so maybe they mean the magnets aren't good enough, but they aren't actually dropping phones to test them? It's hard to know because whoever runs the Ara Twitter account has a fascinatingly weird brain. They are working on a "signature" way to attach modules. Whatever that means.