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Phonebloks is the modular phone you custom build with blocks

By Shawn Knight ยท 39 replies
Sep 11, 2013
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  1. Smartphones are amazing devices on so many levels but their effective lifecycle leaves much to be desired. What I mean is, they are great when first launched but after six months or a year when newer models are available, many...

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  2. Jad Chaar

    Jad Chaar Elite Techno Geek Posts: 6,482   +978

    This is so cool!!!!
    SirDigby and wastedkill like this.
  3. The amount of combinations of the kind "I want this but it doesnt fit with the rest of what I want!!" makes me think this is utterly impractical
    SirDigby likes this.
  4. MrBlkfx1

    MrBlkfx1 TS Evangelist Posts: 857   +205

    I really hope this project gets some backing.
    psycros and wastedkill like this.
  5. Vrmithrax

    Vrmithrax TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,441   +434

    Excellent interpretation of a concept I've been thinking about for years (more on a laptop and tablet scale, but still)...

    I have to wonder how some of the issues I pondered would be handled, though. Like, the inter-module bandwidth would be far slower (I'd imagine) than being directly connected like many sub-modules are in current designs. Also wondering about proper heat dissipation, with every component essentially walled off from the rest of the electronics (which can be good and bad). And, of course, just physical spacing... Phones today use every micrometer of available space to fit all of their hardware in, yet this type of design would have (relatively) massive amounts of space used up by plastic walls, air gaps, etc. Not to mention how much more room will be needed if you have all components split up - like separating wi-fi, bluetooth, and radio when many current phones use highly efficient chips that have them all in one package... Show me you can overcome those (and other technical issues) and I'm all in!!!
    psycros likes this.
  6. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,368   +2,891

    Looks like a phone designed for Minecraft fans.
    Arris likes this.
  7. Vrmithrax

    Vrmithrax TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,441   +434

    Ah, but every consumer makes the same choices and compromises when they buy a cell phone today. It's rare that any one model has every piece of their ideal that they want, so they compromise and choose the version that has what they NEED and as much of the wants as possible...

    Yet, with a system like this, you could conceivably have extra blocks, and switch the functionality of your phone depending on what you need at the moment. That same amount of combinations that you think make it impractical could actually make it incredibly practical.
    psycros likes this.
  8. wastedkill

    wastedkill TS Evangelist Posts: 1,423   +350

    This looks awesome would as they said reduce the amount of electronic waste from phones by a ton!
  9. MrBlkfx1

    MrBlkfx1 TS Evangelist Posts: 857   +205

    What would they do with the unused blocks though? For instance, I upgrade my camera block. What would happen with my old camera block? Can I trade it in? Sell it ? or just toss it adding to electronic waste. Which, in the end would sorta end up counter productive for their cause. Still, I like the concept nonetheless.
  10. So, everytime you put new hardware ( a new block) you will need to provide drivers to the phone to be able to use it?
    What about when a new version of the mainboard appears?

    Sounds just like PC hardware to me, with all the good and bad it implies
  11. ikesmasher

    ikesmasher TS Evangelist Posts: 3,050   +1,384

    I WANT THIS. Just dont dumb it down to an ***** level and remove certain functionalities that us nerds like (none come to mind ATM)
  12. OliTheG

    OliTheG TS Member Posts: 61   +27

    Let me tell you something Mr Video.

    You won't get a handset maker onboard with this (particularly Apple.)

    They WANT you to throw away your old phone. They actively encourage you to upgrade your ENTIRE phone (BECAUSE MORE MONEYZ IN THE BANK) rather than individual pieces.

    You want more battery? Well, Mr Samsung/Apple won't let you, because they are saving that for the next phone, in order to force you onto new phones in the future.

    This is why Apple blocks new versions of iOS from moving onto older items. Nothing would stop my iTouch 2G from running iOS6 (and by extension the skin for it, iOS7.) Practically everything that is new to the UI since iOS2 has just been a rip from jailbreakers, so why not make newer versions avaliable?

    Oh yes, they want you to buy their newest product, and piss away money.

    What this is an attempt to do, is stop hipsters from buying a new phone every year..

    Fat chance.
  13. Tekkaraiden

    Tekkaraiden TS Evangelist Posts: 996   +93

    I like it, it makes the lego fan in me happy.
  14. ikesmasher

    ikesmasher TS Evangelist Posts: 3,050   +1,384

    They dont expect to get apple or samsung or someone like that on this. That would be idiocracy. Smaller handset maker or something.
    psycros likes this.
  15. Jad Chaar

    Jad Chaar Elite Techno Geek Posts: 6,482   +978

    Yeah how would the heat dissipation work.
  16. Vrmithrax

    Vrmithrax TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,441   +434

    I'd like to think a whole ecosystem might pop up around these blocks... Consider the popularity of the Raspberry Pi and Arduino platforms... Modularize the controllers, make them compatible, and you can use that camera block on a little robot project or other idea you had. Or donate them to schools for their projects. You could end up with a big and very interesting modular wave of DIY fun!
    GunsAblazin and psycros like this.
  17. hahahanoobs

    hahahanoobs TS Evangelist Posts: 2,439   +862

    This is worse than Shuttleworth's idea.
  18. dennis777

    dennis777 TS Enthusiast Posts: 285   +33

    Jad Chaar and GunsAblazin like this.
  19. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,625   +2,364

    As long as there's a portrait QWERTY/d-button module and a single standard for compatibility, I'm in.
  20. Jad Chaar

    Jad Chaar Elite Techno Geek Posts: 6,482   +978

    Will it run Android?
  21. GunsAblazin

    GunsAblazin TS Enthusiast Posts: 75

    I'm guessing the wi-fi, bluetooth, and radio can be one block/chip. Everything else are completely valid concerns.

    I don't think chip manufacturers will go for it though, because they'll be selling based on consumer demand and not a massive order by a company. This can be good for them if customers want newer technology like 802.11ac instead of 802.11n, since many companies don't always upgrade.
  22. Electronics engineer's point of view:
    - instead of a single chip solution you have a multi-chip one... instead of a single board you have more boards => extremely expensive.
    - signals through PCBs have more signal integrity issues that sending them inside the silicon. Resulting in a slower system.

    The electronic waste is a null point. Throwing away a single block produces mildly less waste than throwing away a phone.

    This is the kind of results when a designer goes into something he has no clue about, like electronics.
    Arris likes this.
  23. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,680   +417

    Given that all current solutions provided by Qualcomm and the likes are all System on a Chip(SoC) I think they'd struggle to get any company willing to portion up the system into separate silicon. I'd think the cost and potential waste producing this type of modular system might even outweigh the reduced wastage of replacing modules rather than entire phones.
  24. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,471   +1,256

    This is kinda how I imagine Phones from Mass Effect would be like, But in the real world? Technology isn't there yet, this is possible, but god damn I can see it being expensive or not being a particularly fast phone.

    In say 400 years time though? I can see it being possible to modify phones in this manner, But they probably won't look like this anymore xD
  25. lipe123

    lipe123 TS Evangelist Posts: 778   +309

    Erm you are wrong.

    The markup on a 2$ item is WAY more than on a 200$ item. If you can make the blocks for 20$ and sell them for 40$ you will make LOADS more money than selling a $500 phone for $650. Also users currently are on 2-3 year contracts and wont buy a new phone every year but if you give them to option to change out blocks whenever they want they will do it WAY more often.
    Vrmithrax likes this.

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