Phonebloks : A Concept Device made of interchangeable blocks

Apple might have gained all the column inches with its new range of smartphones, but it can’t compare to this concept in terms of pure innovation.

‘Phonebloks’ is a new concept for a mobile phone which you literally build yourself, from a range of pre-made parts, including the battery, processor and ports. The idea is to make a mobile which is never obsolete – because as soon as there’s a new processor out, you can swap it into the device with no fuss.

Clearly, it’s just an idea. But there’s an interesting hint here about one potential future for a class of device which arguably has started to stagnate over the last couple of years.

So rather than throwing out an entire phone when something breaks or you want to upgrade, the Phonebloks concept fits together like Lego so you can swap pieces out as needed.

The concept is really very simple. Each device consists of a motherboard drilled with holes. On the front, you can mount a detachable display; on the back are all of the hardware features that make the phone work, such as the battery and mobile antenna. The holes in the motherboard contain electrical connectors, which form a circuit with the conductive pins of the blocks, creating a fully functional — and fully upgradeable — phone.

But it’s not just about getting a better battery or a higher-resolution screen, which can be switched out as needed. You would also be able to customise your Phonebloks as required; say you didn’t need a gyroscope, but wanted a better camera; or if you didn’t want bells and whistles, but just a dumbphone that could send and receive calls and texts, you could dump all the frills and install a better battery; or if you didn’t want the audio jack, but could use some additional processing power. Depending on what components were available, and whether you could jiggle them to fit like a puzzle, you could potentially build whatever phone you wanted.

Or, if you had spare parts, switch your phone around to suit different needs at different times.

This would then all be held together by screwing a holding plate in place, so that it wouldn’t burst apart like, well, a Lego Death Star if you dropped it.

We suspect that like most concepts, it would be a lot harder to realise in real life than it is in rendering, but we sure hope Hakkens manages to figure it out — because from where we’re sitting, it looks like a piece of solid fried genius.

Although ambitions are high, it is very difficult to produce speaking from a engineering prospect. But still the project will be trying to get investors on board with a social-media shout out on 29 October to attract research investors and vendors. You can join in by adding your support on Phonebloks’ Thunderclap page.

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