Also: super cool.
Electronic devices are generally not designed to last. Inevitably they fail and then you’re stuck looking at either hundreds of dollars in repair costs from some sort of “Genius” or having to replace the phone entirely. This is particularly evident with Apple devices where both the software and the hardware are part of a closed system. There are some customisation options when you purchase a device, but if one part ends up failing it is often difficult and expensive for Regular Joe to replace the part. It’s usually easier to just throw it out and start again.
This is causing a huge problem for a number of reasons. It’s unbelievably expensive to replace the whole device instead of simply repairing the faulty part. Yes it’s easier and if you have more money than sense then I guess it’s not really a problem but with most new smartphones sitting around the $600-800 mark that can get seriously expensive. Particularly if you’re in the habit of dropping phones into toilets or smashing the screen as a lot of people are wont to do.
It’s also wasteful to just discard the entire device if only a part of it is faulty or no longer performing at the level you require. But because so many consumers don’t possess the technical know-how (or the devices are specifically designed to limit end-user modification) they’re often not left with a lot of options. Let’s also not forget that smartphone manufacturers like Apple work on a system with built in obsolescence. Usually after 18 months of a phone release there will be a new system designed to work on a new OS which is increasingly less compatible on older models. Try running iOS 6 on an iPhone 3G or 3Gs if you want to see what I mean.
Enter Phonebloks, a concept for a completely modular smartphone made from a series of “bloks” that are attached to a central base. Do you like taking a lot of photos with your phone? Then why not replace the blocks for bluetooth or the compass to free up some space on the base for you to install a better camera. Or if you do a lot of work in the cloud you could reduce the size of the on-board storage blok and opt for a bigger battery. Finally parents around the world could be living the dream of having a modern phone “that just makes calls” and children around the world could give their eyes a rest from all that rolling they’ve been doing every time they hear that same…joke? Is it a joke? Do they think it’s funny? I don’t know, the point is they can stop and the world would be a better place for it.
It’s a really clever idea and it allows the end user to be entirely in control of the phone they are buying. You wouldn’t have to compare the different HTC models (what are there, 500 now?) to find the one that best suits your needs. You could just build the phone you know you want to use now.
All smartphones come with their own app store where you can purchase and download different applications for the OS, Phonebloks would run a similar model for hardware with their Blokstore. If your needs change and you need to change the configuration of your bloks you just order the new bloks from the store and when it arrives you send them back your old, unwanted bloks. This is where the cool tech meets environmental responsibility. At least as far as they’re claiming on their website, this system is designed to minimise e-waste, since you’re not actually throwing out electronic devices. They don’t actually mention it at all on their site but there may be a market for used bloks but eventually they would have to have some sort of plan for responsibly disposing of or recycling the outdated or damaged bloks.
This is just an idea at this stage, the phone doesn’t exist and it’s going to be a difficult uphill battle to make it exist. The Phonebloks website contains information about their plan as well as a link to “Join the Thunderclap” where you essentially sign up for a giant, worldwide social media blast. The idea is to make hardware manufacturers pay attention and see that there is a demand for such a product. I am usually very cynical about these sorts of things but I want it to exist so bad because my phone contract expires soon and I want a goddamn mobile phone made out of Lego! So sign up for the Thunderclap, it requires about the bare minimum of effort on your part to support a really cool project and it’s cheap as free (the support, that is, who knows how much the phone would actually cost?).
Anyway, this advertorial was brought to you but Not Enough Sleep, Overenthusiastic Nerd Excitement, and Phonebloks®: The Phone Of The Future For Today™©.