Tired of replacing an entire phone every couple of years just because one or two elements of the phone had died or were outdated, Dutch designer Dave Hakkens created Phonebloks.
A concept phone made of modular blocks for each component — the screen, battery, antennae, processor, storage, etc. — Phonebloks allows for easy replacement of individual parts with the goal of minimizing electronic waste.
The modular system means that updating your mobile phone means only changing the components that are outdated.
In theory, the parts can also be customised to fit individual users’ needs. For example, if you do everything using cloud-based services, you can swap out your storage block for a larger battery block. Or if you want your phone to focus on photography, then just upgrade the camera.
When I first started writing this post about a month ago, Phonebloks was a great idea but probably a long way off, if it ever happened. Then a couple of days ago Motorola announced a new hardware platform called Project Ara. Motorola will build an endoskeleton that holds the different components together and third party developers can make the modules that can attach to it.
Motorola have been developing this in house for over a year and now are working with Dave Hakkens, the Phonebloks creator, though he is still pursuing funding for Phonebloks to keep it as an independent approach:
Google bought Motorola over two years ago, and you can see their fingerprints all over this kind of ‘disruptive’ project. It’s beginning to look like their vision for Motorola is to make the sort of changes in mobile phone hardware that Andriod has in software.
Whatever happens, it’s great to see a clever idea that could make a real difference both to the way use phones and also have a positive environmental impact come to fruition. It’s a bit of a way off from market, but the fact it’s come this far already is cool.