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Are Modular Phones The Future?

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posted on Sep, 12 2013 @ 10:19 PM
Recently, I've come across a new device that is attempting to find viewership on the internet. It's being marketed as "PhoneBloks", a modular style phone/portable device capable of being customised and repaired easily and quickly.

A phone only lasts a couple of years before it breaks or becomes obsolete. Although it's often just one part which killed it, we throw everything away since it's almost impossible to repair or upgrade.

I personally find this to be a brilliant idea, though I question the simplicity of such a project on a number of levels.

Physical Space
Suggesting that this device does enter the mainstream, how easily can one modify or customise the modules on their device? If you want to replace a larger battery with a smaller in order to fit, for example, a larger storage module, how easily will these pieces fit together? Will you end up with empty space on the board? Not enough space?

Manufacturer Support
This is not as big an issue for me as the above, as this is something that has been worked on since the conception of the home computer, but it is still something that needs to be discussed. How easily can manufacturers develop modules for this device? Will there be an encompassing OS that needs to easily recognise the hardware and interface with it? Who tests the modules to approve them for sale?

It's all well and good to say that this device is a step forward in innovation, which it is, but at what price? One could assume that the board itself has a main microprocessor that can interface with a larger processor that plugs into the back (since everything is ugradeable, this must be assumed). How much is the main board going to cost? $50? Then the processor; $70? Camera, battery, storage, wifi, microphone (yes, as depicted, the microphone and speaker are modules), vibration, gyroscope? It could very well turn out that these parts may end up costing the end user MORE that a standard phone.

However, with the ability to upgrade components, does this higher initial investment better itself by decreasing the cost of effectively buying a new phone? Instead of spending another $700 on a whole new handset, one could spend $70 on a new processor and increase the power of the phone ten-fold for a fraction of the cost. Perhaps this is where the spark of genius comes from.

Phonebloks is made of detachable bloks. The bloks are connected to the base which locks everything together into a solid phone. If a blok breaks you can easily replace it, if it's getting old just upgrade.

The idea of "bloks" translates even better when one considers the idea of the store that the developer has in mind. A place where you can buy, review, and sell bloks, old and new. But will there be a market for older hardware, or will the reduced cost of parts cause this part of the plan to fall apart, ending up in a mass of broken part still ending up in landfill?

It's like an app store for hardware. In the store you buy your bloks, read reviews and sell old bloks. Small and big companies develop and sell their bloks. you can buy a pre-assembled phone or assemble it yourself by selecting the brands you want to support. The choice is yours.

I now pose to ATS a question: Is it possible to develop such a device that is effectively running on a breadboard? How is it possible to access new modules plugged in this way? Clever programming to determine the input and output of each unit on startup, then run the firmware built in to access the drivers? I've never worked on hardware programming before, so I'm limited with my knowledge on this subject.

Personally, I hope this does come to fruition. Not for the ability to save money, but for the ability to easily and quickly repair and upgrade a device, as I am not one to change phones often. I am keen to get ATS's opinion on the subject. Check out the video and website below for more details.


posted on Sep, 12 2013 @ 11:39 PM
Looks like a PC. Motherboard, CPU, components. I would buy it.

posted on Sep, 12 2013 @ 11:58 PM
reply to post by Scaleru

Damn I was just about to post this but couldn't figure how to post because of the new layout lmao
I think it's an awesome concept I hope it gains traction. I sure would get one.

posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 12:04 AM
reply to post by Scaleru

Yeah. Saw this yesterday. Stoked.

The trick will likely be that each component knows its own functions, and can communicate those functions in a standard way to the rest of the phone. No other components need to know how any other component works... just that the component is present. Standard communication between components will be key.

As soon as you plug in a new unit and power on, the unit will send out its identifying characteristics. I am a bluetooth device. I am a display. I am a standard vibe/ring unit. The method of communicating with that type of unit will already be known by the OS, which I assume would run on the slightly smarter than a breadboard.

I would bring out the concept of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and invite you to look into that a bit. As a bit of an explanation, it's an approach to system setup where all communication between components is handled by a communication layer that routes traffic where it needs to go. There will be known paths for info to travel, but where the info goes doesn't matter to the initiating component. It will just send, and allow comms to take care of routing. The only part that needs to understand the components that are present is the communication layer, and that only well enough to address it if needed.

posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 12:18 AM
reply to post by CrikeyMagnet

Yeah, the trick really is going to be getting the components to connect. Remember, you're putting them into a random assortment of I/O plugs, where any one could be in, and any one could be out. Moreso, any of them can be connected to each other. Very intricate breadboard.

I see this going beyond single screen/board devices though. Think wirelessly connecting several of them to share processing load, or even physically connecting them to produce a larger device with more complex functions. If the firmware on the board is developed well enough, we could see this technology spread into almost any field imaginable.

Very excited about this one.


posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 12:53 AM
It would be great but the problem is money and greed. You have stores throwing out good food just because they can not sell it (a day away from expiry) and high repair costs for elecronics to the point where its better to buy a new one. There is no money in easy to fix/upgrade tecnology, they want you to spend $100-300 on a new phone instead of $20-60. If they thought they could get away with it, they would seal the battery in with superglue!

posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 01:06 AM
reply to post by XL5

I agree with you in principle, but repair costs being high? That depends on who does the work.

I replaced my iPhone4 screen and home button for a grand total cost of around $30. If I were to pay someone, at the time the going rate was $150 for parts an labor plus 1 hour waiting time. That's $120 an hour to replace a screen. Ridiculous.

Funny thing though, iPhone batteries ARE glued in =D

posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 04:13 AM
Looks like if it got dropped it might fall apart. It's not personally a phone I would want.

I can't see there being a market for it, unless its at walmart. The phone companies want to sell packages and new expensive phones and people want those phones.

posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 04:32 AM
I think this is a brilliant idea, I'd definitely buy one if I knew it was going to be a long term venture with support for users.

I can't see all phones being like this, but I can certainly see one manufacturer giving it a bash, and I hope someone high up at HTC or Samsung etc sees this video and takes inspiration from it.



posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 05:20 AM
As often as I drop my phone, I don't see myself buying it.

One drop and it's 52 blok pickup, and you just know that one piece will fly to where it is hard to get to like under the stove or frig or into some water.

And it would also be the piece that everybody else breaks or loses and there won't be any replacements in stock for a bit. LOL

posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 06:10 AM
As for breaking apart... at one point in the video, they mention two screw that hold everything in place. The pins used for connection were also shaped in a way that suggssts the mechanism for holding it together. I expect that the breadboard would have a plate that slides a couple of millimetres and is held in that spot by the screws. This would lock in on the connection pins for the components, actually making the thing less likely to come apart than any of the phones iI've had before. (I think...)


posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 07:42 AM
reply to post by Scaleru

Yeah, I know things can be done by people with the smarts (common sense), but for most, it will cost some huge amount.

As for Iphones, any one that buys it will defend Apple to the death as they can do no wrong lol.

posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 07:52 AM

As for breaking apart... at one point in the video, they mention two screw that hold everything in place. The pins used for connection were also shaped in a way that suggssts the mechanism for holding it together. I expect that the breadboard would have a plate that slides a couple of millimetres and is held in that spot by the screws. This would lock in on the connection pins for the components, actually making the thing less likely to come apart than any of the phones iI've had before. (I think...)

That's the Impression I got. I don't think you'd have to worry about it exploding into pieces dropping it from hand height, which is about a metre for most people. Of course it would probably break apart if you dropped it from a high enough point but so will any other phone but the chances of that happening are slim.

edit on 13/9/2013 by kingears because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 08:00 AM
reply to post by Scaleru

This idea is genius! I'd still spend a fortune on a phone though because I'd want to collect all the different attachments so that I could play with them.



posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 08:07 AM
reply to post by XL5

same thing with a bread toaster, I repaired mine some years ago with a 10 dollar part. but I could have bought a brand new one for 17.99...why not just buy the new one.

posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 08:42 AM
reply to post by Scaleru

There is one big flaw in this concept that will need to be dealt with: the size, shape and interface of the whole. Who is to say we will still be carrying around a device in say 5 years time? I think it more likely that we'll be wearing them very soon, integrated into our clothes, or worn on (or IN...) our skin in other ways.

posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 08:57 AM

"PhoneBloks", a modular style phone

IMHO it will suffer the same problem as a lot of computers.
That the devices will technically be called "upgradable", but if you wait more than a year to do any upgrades you'll find that the upgrades are obsolete and nobody sells them, not compatable with your old motherboard, needs new BIOS, but the BIOS doesnt work with the old screen, and new bluetooth capability wont work unless you upgrade that module so its compatable with the new RAM you also have to buy because the old RAM isnt compatable with the new screen, and in any case you cant find any shops even selling the memory upgrade required because thats obsolete now and doesnt even work with the new batteries.
Fine for hobbyists though.
But for the average user, especially with phone technology, you'll end up with a device that cant be simply upgraded because the technology has changed so much since you bought it.

Got an old Pentium computer? Try "upgrading" that to a fast modern machine by *only* changing the CPU.

posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 10:43 AM
I love the idea would work great for me personally. As far as falling apart when dropped just put a cover on it and that problem is solved. Im all for it.

posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 11:17 AM
Where's the screen?

It's creative but I don't see this going anywhere. I doubt Samsung is going to want to pay a license fee to make "bloks" for people to buy on the "blokstore".

For most people, they don't care how all the parts of their phone work together. People are lazy and would rather just get a new phone than try to keep an older one upgraded.

What they DO need to start making are durable phones. What is the point in crafting a beautiful phone that feels awesome in the hand if you're going to shove it into a huge rubber and plastic waterproof otterbox?

Make a phone that doesn't need a case, I'd buy that.

posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 11:40 AM
reply to post by Scaleru

I first saw this yesterday or the day before on imgur which lead me to the makers campaign site. I really like it, and I feel that this will always be a "niche" device. It'll be stuck with people who want a device that they can customize. That's not a bad thing, but can limit it's reach.

Besides, this concept is nothing new. A while back, around 2007 or 2008 I believe a company released a device that resembled a modular phone. I forget the name, but it made a big splash on Engadget. You were able to plug in new "modules" to the phone to give it extra battery life, a camera and other useful things.

I'd love to have a modular phone. I'd like a clam shell design that would allow me to use it like a Nokia Communicator (9000 through to the E90). I'd love to be able to pop a QWERTY keyboard on the inside with a large HD screen on the opposite side. (So it closes, like a clam shell.) Put two batteries on the backside forgoing a camera module and a small screen on the front with a number pad. (Basically, a Nokia Communicator, but with double batteries.)

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