A new technology concept sees the everyday phone user being able to replace and/or upgrade parts of their handset as part of a new modular design – as well as choosing the initial parts. The concept is sustainable and, if implicated, should hopefully slow down the ever-increasing need for the latest handsets of our growing ‘throw-away’ society. However, will it be popular against the highly competitive smartphone market?

Dutch designer Dave Hakkens is the brains behind the concept. He was inspired after taking apart his favourite camera to discover a wide range of parts, of which only one was actually broken. However, when he took it to his nearest camera shop, he was told to replace the entire gadget.

Unfortunately, many electronics companies are producing products with discrepancies, which (after a certain length of time) malfunction or break down. This means that we, as consumers have to splash our cash and buy new gadgets, therefore increasing their profit.

Many consumers are buying into this scheme, with major phone networks such as O2 offering a ‘Refresh’ scheme, allowing their customers to upgrade their contracts whenever they want.

Hakkens made a good point in his design pitch. When our bikes get a flat tyre, we do not throw the bike away. Instead, we simply replace the tyre. Our attitude towards electronics is somehow far from this as we anxiously await upgrades. Gone are the days where we were reluctant to part with a loyal but broken handset.

Is there a gap in the market for Phonebloks? Modular design concepts are cropping up everywhere, with the sustainability trend boosting its appeal. It also allows users to personalise their handsets, which may offers a familiar attachment to the product, making users reluctant to throw away or upgrade their entire mobile phone.

It would also greatly reduce the amount of electronic waste that pollutes our planet. Phones are predicted to be approaching an innovation plateau, which means technical aspects such as screen resolution and speed are unlikely to increase in quality for the time being.  Allowing perfect timing for the introduction of the Phonebloks concept.

Yet, the idea is not perfect. Existing components have been developed to be ultra-lightweight to satisfy the ever-increasing demand for ‘pocket-sized’ and slim handsets. For this reason, the internals of the device are permanently attached within, making them too difficult to repair by most users. Also, Phoneblok battery units would have to be larger and bulkier to accommodate the removable features, therefore making clunky Phonebloks potentially less desirable.

If Phonebloks could find a way to get around this (perhaps with permanent and semi-permanent modules) Apple and Samsung may have a major competitor in their midst.

For more information and to follow their progress, visit https://phonebloks.com/

Olivia Newall


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