I’m maybe going a bit off-topic here but I saw this concept for a revolutionary new type of smartphone earlier and wanted to make sure it gets all the exposure it deserves. Designed by Dave Hakkens, whose phone is probably off-the-hook with interview requests at the moment, Phonebloks is a truly remarkable concept for a modular smartphone. The Phonebloks site is currently down at the time of writing due to the level of demand generation by the amount of commotion this idea has caused. Composed of a central motherboard with a grid of plugin sockets, component specifications and features in a Phonebloks phone can be selected by you.
The key aim of Phonebloks is to produce a smartphone that will never become obsolete. While this may certainly be a tall order, an alternative is definitely needed to the status quo of the smartphone market in which products are released annually with only modest innovations but that still require that the entire phone is replaced to have the latest version. Phonebloks sets out to reduce this kind of waste although I’m not entirely convinced it’ll have such a dramatic effect in this regard as its modular components are still going to be updated and the obsolete ones disposed of. It’s still definitely a step in the right direction though.
Modules which make up the back and front of the phone could be acquired from the Block-Store, essentially a hardware equivalent of Apple’s App Store, and users could select which components they want in their dream phone. For example some may prioritise a larger battery, increased processing power or higher storage capacity. Leading brands could sell Bloks on the marketplace such as Bose and Marshall producing speaker modules, Lacie and Seagate competing on storage modules or Nikon could offer an improved camera to rival Nokia’s Lumia 1020.
Could this idea catch on and take over the world? Yes, but I highly doubt leading brands such as Apple or Samsung are going to give it any assistance in doing so. As market leaders they’re happy with the way things are right now and its up to us as consumers to pull the carpet out from under their feet and turn towards a more open smartphone platform.
So what next? Well the Phonebloks movement is currently just a campaign on Thunderclap, a crowd-speaking platform that allows you to register your support by posting a Facebook or Twitter message at a specific time. While this is a nice idea and will help spread the message, I don’t think it’s going to put a Phoneblok in your hand. I think a crowdfunding campaign would be the ideal way to help establish the open platform company that would produce the phone’s core and administer the marketplace.
Despite the recent failed attempt by Canonical to crowdfund the Ubuntu Edge on Indigogo, I think Phonebloks could succeed in a campaign with similar terms. The idea of a truly modular smartpone has a much wider appeal than a highend phone with suped-up hardware and an ultra-minority operating system. The possibilities really are endless with this kind of smartphone and just as the Ubuntu Edge set out to make a smartphone that could also operate as a desktop computer, what’s to stop you from acquiring bloks for your modular phone to offer this same performance.
What modules or features would you include if you had your very own Phonebloks smartphone?
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