No doubt the recent release of Apple’s new iPhone left everyone feeling decidedly underwhelmed. Compounding this feeling is the exhaustion that accompanies the release of another iPhone on the market, as with a new release the one in your pocket is another step towards being made completely and depressingly antediluvian. But yet, planned obsolescence is indeed a thing – a thing that is destitute of environmental considerations but a thing nonetheless. Moreover, whether you are admittedly gripped by consumer culture or just gripped by consumer culture un-admittedly – you will inevitably upgrade your device and soon enough confine your old phone to the bottom drawer.
However, there is an idea in circulation that is bucking the wasteful trend whilst simultaneously allowing you to stay up to date in your communication device/hand held computer/ camera/paper weight. That idea is Dave Hakkens’ Phonebloks and my moustache and I think it is a game changer.
Made entirely of modular components (including the screen), the Phonebloks allows you to upgrade individual components of the phone, rather than the whole thing in one foul swish. This cuts down on tech wastage and in doing so corrects a small portion of crooked consumer culture.
Furthermore, the modular design allows you the ultimate freedom in mobile manipulation – an avenue Apple have prevented you from exploring for years. For instance, if you are a camera enthusiast, you can upgrade your camera block at the expense of your battery. Alternatively, enlarge your battery and do away with the memory card which you never use anyway. The sky and the size of the back of your modular phone is the limit.
It works thus; Each component or ‘blok’ will sit on a single base. Each blok can be rearranged and/or replaced. The block tesselate leaving a flush finish, similar to what you have now. Once pegged in, the block are held to the backing board and each other by two small screws.Then, when it comes to upgrade your bits, you log on to the ‘Blokstore’, which in effect will be “an app store for hardware” (a weird world we live in where digital products lead the physical), choose your upgrade/replacement, peg it in and voila – a new piece of hardware without having to throw the rest out for the sake of one incremental increase in efficiency/performance.
However, as always, such progressive ideas are best explained via illustrative moving pictures:
It’s great, isn’t it?
But Phonebloks take their idea one step further and hints at being in the game for longevity’s sake. Eschewing the trend of employing crowd-funding, Phonebloks have tipped their hat in favour of attracting longer lasting and more reliable business partners and start up capital. But attracting this type of partnership costs money and resources and foremost, promotion– a responsibility founder Hakkens has turned over to Thunderclap. Thunderclap works by blasting out a timed Facebook Post or Tweet from all the supporters of the program and in doing so, creating a wave of attention that can’t be ignored. It is a crowd yelling platform. In this manner Phonebloks hopes to attract a company that will adopt the technology as a legitimate proposition, rather than a once off angel payment in return for getting dirty mits on a product first which is typical of crowd funding motives.
Another point which has failed to attract attention which is a particularly attractive feature of the modular design, is the possibility (and probability) manufacturers beyond the original creator developing and marketing their own individual modular bloks. As with all industries, competition benefits the consumer – in this case competition will likely manifest itself in the form of longer lasting, higher spec technology that will save the planet and deliver us from evil.
Innovation, environmentally sustainable and a credible alternative if ever my moustache and I have seen it. So now the question is, what else can we modulise?
- Phonebloks: the ultimate modular phone concept (androidauthority.com)
- Phonebloks: A modular phone you update a piece at a time (news.cnet.com)