A phone only lasts a couple of years before it breaks or becomes obsolete. Although it’s often just one part that killed it, we throw everything away because it’s almost impossible to repair or upgrade.
Phoneblok 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.
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.
One of the things we were most impressed about when it came to the new Moto X phone was the customisability. You could really make that phone your own. But what if you could go further than that and replace not just the case and colour, what if you could choose the size of your battery, the features you had and the processor you wanted as simply as ordering a pizza? Meet Phoneblocks: the future of buying a smartphone.
Phoneblocks is based on a simple concept: we waste too much crap, especially when it comes to gadgets. Often, we throw out whole devices just because one component is broken. That, and it’s just so inexpensive to upgrade to the latest and greatest these days. As a result, we’re throwing away devices and gadgets at a record rate, all of which with poisonous materials that seep into the environment, with the potential to screw it up almost permanently.
That’s where Phoneblocks comes in. Rather than replace your whole phone because the screen got smashed while you were drunk or the camera suddenly doesn’t work anymore, it advocates that you just buy a replacement module and keep the rest of the phone that isn’t broken.
This concept also has huge potential for future upgrades. Rather than throw out the iPhone to upgrade to the 5c or the 5s, for example, just buy the new processor module from Apple and a cool new coloured case. Instead of pining for a 41-megapixel, Lumia 1020-style camera, just buy one and slap it onto the board.
Even more interestingly, it brings in the idea of total customisability when it comes to your smartphone: no two devices would ever be different. Fancy a giant whacking battery and don’t really care about storage? Slap one on there and keep everything in the cloud? Want more RAM and less camera? Buy a bigger module! Fancy a huge battery and massive camera? Get it on there! Need a big bright screen but not much else? Go buy one!
It’s a simple and beautiful concept, but sadly, it’s a bridge too far for most mobile providers.
It means that vendors would first need to agree on a standard for making phones which they can’t do at the best of times when it comes to stuff like SIM card sizing (read: iPhone 5′s nanoSIM versus everyone else using a microSIM). It would also require vendors to surrender their unique points of difference, which companies like Apple and Samsung pride themselves on.
Hopefully, the concept of Phoneblocks stays out there long enough that it can support itself as a company, rather than trying to form a consortium of vendors. That way we can finally have the first sustainable Android handset manufacturer on the planet. Shut up and take my money.
Can a phone last forever ?
Upon hearing of Motorola’s Project Ara, it’s easy to lapse into thinking about all the reasons why it’ll be hard — almost impossible — to pull off: customers won’t have incentive to buy new phones, modules will be too expensive; the list goes on. And if you can think of 30 reasons not to build such a thing, Motorola’s designers and engineers can probably come up with 300. But against all odds, they’re doing it.
The “why” of Project Ara is an inspiring vision of a more sustainable and democratic smartphone. Motorola wants to lower barriers to entry for new companies and consumers alike while helping to build an ecosystem of versatile devices that don’t get discarded as soon as any one component breaks down. The same flexibility that you gain from having an interchangeable battery can be magnified if everything from the display and cameras to the applications processor and wireless radios is also user-upgradeable. By swimming upstream against the current of ever-greater integration and consolidation, Motorola’s venture aims to produce “a phone worth keeping.”
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Led by Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, Project Ara is developing a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. We want to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines.
Our goal is to drive a more thoughtful, expressive, and open relationship between users, developers, and their phones. To give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it’s made of, how much it costs, and how long you’ll keep it.
The design for Project Ara consists of what we call an endoskeleton (endo) and modules. The endo is the structural frame that holds all the modules in place. A module can be anything, from a new application processor to a new display or keyboard, an extra battery, a pulse oximeter–or something not yet thought of!
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