Phonebloks is the modular phone you custom build with blocks

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member
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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G

Guest

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
 
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Vrmithrax

TechSpot Paladin
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!!!
 
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Vrmithrax

TechSpot Paladin
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
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.
 
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MrBlkfx1

TS Evangelist
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.
 
G

Guest

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
 

ikesmasher

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

OliTheG

TS Member
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.
 

ikesmasher

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

Elite Techno Geek
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!!!
Yeah how would the heat dissipation work.
 

Vrmithrax

TechSpot Paladin
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.
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!
 

psycros

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

GunsAblazin

TS Enthusiast
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!!!
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.
 
G

Guest

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.
 
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Arris

TS Evangelist
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.
 

Burty117

TechSpot Chancellor
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
 

lipe123

TS Evangelist
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.
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.
 
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