A Dutch designer has come up with an idea for a totally modular smartphone that clicks together like a Lego set. Whether it’s physically or financially viable remains to be seen, but nearly a million people have agreed to publicize it tomorrow.
Dave Hakkens’s idea, Phonebloks, came about after he had to throw out an entire digital camera simply because the lens motor had broken. He told the BBC that repairing electronics should be more like a bike or car where you simply replace the broken part.
The idea is absolutely at the concept stage and no further. Hakkens has created imagery of the idea, by which almost every component would be housed in a different block, marked with a relevant logo. They’d then clip together on a basic frame, allowing users to not only replace broken parts, but easily upgrade to better or new components over time.
Hakken’s is under no illusion that the idea would face major technical challenges. That design would need some kind of protective measure, such as a removable plastic casing, to prevent dirt, dust and moisture compromising the parts. And it would be likely the phone would be much bulkier than existing models.
It would of course also require a major coming-together of phone and component manufacturers changing their business models (and you can forget Apple being involved.) There’s a big question about whether component manufacturers would be willing or able to make affordable parts without the guaranteed manufacturing run that’s only viable when you sign a deal to be used in a mass-produced, homogenous handset.
Still, the concept isn’t short of admirers. Hakkens has been using a site called Thunderclap that allows campaigners and supporters to lend their social media accounts to spread a message through a single automated, simultaneous post, a tool described as “crowd-speaking.”
Hakkens originally set a goal of 500 people to sign up, the minimum requirement for the tool to operate. In fact, as things stand, 968,351 people’s accounts are scheduled to make the post, which will go out tomorrow. Thunderclap estimates that this will reach an audience of 378 million people, though it’s not clear if that includes duplicated friends and followers.