10
Sep
phoneblocs

Your phone is old and you need a new one. You'd be happy as a clam if you could upgrade only one part, but to get the RAM/storage/processor you want, you have to pay for everything. This is why people still build desktop PCs. A concept called Phonebloks takes that modular PC goodness and applies it to smartphones. It's an interesting idea that will probably never, ever come to fruition.

Here's the gist: you buy a phone base that includes the motherboard and enough connective hardware to string all the parts together on one side and mount the screen on the other. The back is full of holes with electrical contacts, sort of like that big green LEGO baseboard you played with before the company turned into an alternate action figure line for superheroes and Harry Potter. Plug in the components you want on the back, grab a screen for the front, and turn it on. Wam bam, you've got a complete and working smartphone with components that can be upgraded by end users at any time.

The really interesting bit (and one of the biggest problems with the idea) is that the components can be reconfigured in an infinite number of combinations on the back of the phone. If you never use Bluetooth or WiFi but you listen to music all the time, toss out the extra wireless modules and swap in a bigger speaker. If you use almost zero local storage but you tend to spend days away from a wall outlet, plug in a tiny 2GB storage module and a massive battery pack. The video proposes that different manufacturers could make modules that all work seamlessly with the Phonebloks base, which suggests that designer Dave Hakkens never had a cell phone in the early 2000s, when finding a compatible charger at the airport was impossible.

phonebloks

The fundamental design is also more than a tad bit optimistic. I'm no electrical engineer, but I know that it's no small task to create a system of contacts that will work for a processor, battery, wireless modules, and flash storage interchangeably. Getting it all to work with zero soldering seems unlikely, and I get the impression that the phone would fly apart like a meticulously-crafted Gundam figurine the moment you drop it. The basic idea of swappable parts means that any of these phones would be gigantic by today's standards. And lastly, what happens if the exact combination of wireless, processor, memory, storage, camera, and battery modules you want won't fit into a neat rectangle? Will you just fill in the empty space with blank hunks of plastic?

phonebloks2

Don't let any of this naysaying detract from the concept. It's a great idea, I just don't think it's entirely compatible with the way that mobile hardware works at the moment. But the idea of swappable, upgradeable modules definitely has merit - hell, it's the reason that some people still refuse to buy phones without a MicroSD card slot or removable battery. Creating an upgradeable system for flash storage (or cameras, or speakers, or basically anything that isn't soldered to the system board) is not an impossible dream. Whether or not phone manufacturers and OEMs will play along is another matter. After all, they're probably just hunky dory with the wasteful upgrade cycle as it stands.

The Phonebloks project is organizing a mass social media push on October 29th to give the idea a ton of exposure and hopefully get some hardware and software vendors on board. If you'd like to join in, head on over to the Thunderclap.it page and sign up. The project website seems to be down at the moment.

Source: YouTube - thanks, Michael Crider!

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • http://silverfang77.tumblr.com/ Silver Fang

    So, more like a traditional desktop PC, where you can upgrade the RAM, CPU, motherboard, video? That certainly sounds interesting.

    • adetogni

      EXCEPT that on a desktop pc each module has his own specialized connector: RAM = DIMM, CPU = Socket, Video = PCI-E, Audio = audio connector, Monitor = VGA/DVI, Devices = USB.

      • ssj4Gogeta

        Also, on the mobile side, the parts are more tightly integrated. GPU and CPU on the same die, modem inside the CPU package, along with the RAM sometimes. Manufacturers are able to make power-efficient, thin and light devices because they don't have to care about interoperability with other manufacturers.
        Separating them out and connecting them through standard interfaces will probably make the device much more power-hungry and bulky. Also, thermal constraints will also be a concern. On my desktop, whether I use a 65W processor, or a 130W processor, I know that my cooling system and PSU have the headroom to handle it. You'll probably need much tighter tolerances in a mobile.
        Also, power management might be difficult. If the CPU and GPU are on the same die, you can efficiently allocate thermal and power budget between them.

  • Jimmy Beaulieu

    This seems like a great idea. I'd be a little concerned as to how the electrical aspects work, and I would think there would be some sort of backplate, but it isn't impossible.

    • Adam Dunne

      I don't think a backplate is needed. There would likely be a locking mechanism in the baseplate that you slide up or down to lock the pins in. They are grooved in the video, I feel that could work well enough. The backs of the peripherals would ideally be a nice grippy rubber or some-such material, like the nexus 7 backplate.

      • wiz_kid

        Or a removable back plate works.

        • Adam Dunne

          This will add to the thickness even more, which will likely already be an issue.

          • Grant Abbott

            yeah, and besides most people would just get a case for it anyway which kinda counts as a backplate

          • Brenden Rosenbaum

            from the looks of it, the phone will be between 1/3 to 1/2 inch. which honestly leaves allot of room for a case over the iphone with an otter-box defender case which comes in at 5/8 of an inch. as for the diameter of it... it looks smaller then the sgs2 that i have aswell as the sgs3-4's and seeing a "real button" keyboard option for a screen is super cool and promisisng

      • Allie

        or like EVERY other smartphone, people will develop their own covers

      • Jake Thomas

        but don't drop it, because there goes the battery, and all the phone's components!

        • http://mrmcpowned.com mrmcpowned

          My guess is that those two locking screws have a pin lock mechanism so the lego-y bits don't go flying everyone and end up stuck to the bottom of your bare feet.

  • Duckie1217

    I'd they could make a unique breadboard with uniquely designed snap pins, I guess it could work, but the breadboard rows would still be individual as far as what they support. I dunno. I don't think they could make it work with every device component. Not at all.

  • https://plus.google.com/106261148188435264925/about Aaron Echols

    I'll by 3 :)

    • sssgadget

      You'll by 3?

      • Chris

        No, he'll bye* 3...

        • ergu

          bi

          • error

            I'll be 3

  • William Donald Morton

    It could work if they have differing layers for connectivity. For example, think of a headphone plug. It has three sections... left audio, right audio and ground. If the pins on the blocks and the backplate support different layers, you could have a layer for power a layer for incoming data and a layer for outgoing data... Really simplified, mind you... I'm sure it is a LOT more involved than that.
    In any case, I'm going to sign up, just because I think it's an interesting idea and I'd love to see some R&D put into it - even if it ends up failing, it could harken new tech and/or ideas for future platforms.

    • fonix232

      Actually if they can create a "nodified" interface on the baseplate - that meaning, something universal, where parts, instead of connected directly, would make a meshnet-like layout and everything would communicate with everything until they find their matching parts, then it is not an issue.

  • Adam Dunne

    I think there will need to be designated zones on the baseplate, but things like wi-fi, bluetooth, sd slots, audio jacks, environmental sensors, radios, etc can all be universal. The bigger challenge would be a battery and the main processor components. I feel a designated zone on the baseplate would work. In fact, you'd likely only need a few active pins. I'm sure the battery would only need a couple, so you line the battery module up with the bottom right side and it just works regardless of size. The remaining pins are mere dummies.

    • Adam Dunne

      Most of the peripherals listed would only need to be "1 pin" big and would work much like a simple USB device. Easy to arrange in any pattern. I really like this idea.

      • fonix232

        Actually, no need for designated areas on the baseplate. Like I mentioned in a previous comment, if the baseplate is made in a way that the devices appear as P2P nodes (very similar to MeshNet), they can discover each other, their own utilities, and where to connect. Of course this will result in more expensive baseplate and/or parts (depending which half integrates the find-and-use functions), but after the initial setup, it could very much act as USB.

        • adetogni

          Oh yeah. Try to put a processor as its ram connected via an USB (serial!) connection. Good luck with playing angry birds at 0.0001 FPS.

          • fonix232

            Please do read my comment again, as seemingly you did not grasp what I've meant with it.

            "Act as USB" - by this, I did not refer to ACTUALLY using USB, it would be stupid. I just referred to it's PnP capability, and given that they can develop a technology that can transfer data at the same speed as the usual CPU-RAM connection, with PnP thrown into the package, then the problem you brought up is solved.

          • adetogni

            Any serial connection simply won't work and is not comparable. Ask yourself why memory banks have 256 pins and USB has 4? It's not about peak speed but maximum size of data at the same time and parallel transfer.Fast supercomputersconnect their nodes with very large parallel buses to increase throughput

          • fonix232

            While you are right about the technical part, you completely ignored what I wrote. YES, simple serial ports won't work. But did I say anywhere that I want that? No. I said, if it is made Plug-and-Play, so that devices can discover each other, the connection does not matter. For example, the SoC part (I believe, as it is referred as the Speed component, it would include CPU, GPU, RAM and a small NAND for the OS and user settings) could connect via multiple interfaces (multiple layers in the PCB), so we could have actual USB devices, I2C devices, extend the RAM on another interface, or hell, even interconnect two Speed components to do the job.

          • adetogni

            I saw what you wrote, but I'm saying that you can't put on the same "communication channel" an audio signal and a CPU/Ram signal.
            You also said "interconnect two "speed" components, and I guess you meant two processor/ram blocks. Well, how are you going to split the load on two processors/ram? They are two completely separated modules, with separated memory banks. How are you going to address and split the memory? Processors must be built with the idea of having them to work together (i.e. a-la Cray) and that's a complex and costly setup.
            All this project is in the best scenario a engineering nightmare, and in the worst a total nonsense.

  • james kendall

    cool concept but I doubt it will ever come to life as frankly componets love planed obsolesces and imcompatablites to lock concumers into their echosystems.

  • robopanda333

    anyone thinking it can work, i would love to hear how. depending on implementation you need a minumum of 3 pins (async serial in) anything that needs bidir comunication needs 4. the problem is async serial is slow(!) sync'ed is much faster, and needs 1 more pin. you need some way of addressing each device, and lets say that magically the board handles that. what you end up with is a really complex device controller "motherboard" and a bunch of slow peripherals. The cpu talking to ram over spi? it sounds retarded because it is retarded. not to mention driving the screen... there are lots of wires on those connectors for a reason.

    • Adam Dunne

      You could pack 3-4 "pins" in one. You don't have to plug in 4 usb cables for one device, all of that communication is within the one plug. Just shrink that down. I can see the pins split into quarters with some sort of separator. I'm not saying this is going to be easy to pull off, as I'm no engineer, but see my comment below. I'd like you to weigh in on the theory.

      • robopanda333

        yes. what you said :p
        i would do vertical splits, so there needn't be special holes. the battery would just connect to the gnd and vcc plane and power everything, as would the power connector. high speed devices would communicate using more pins. you would need someone crazy and devoted to make the io controller for this thing tho. because it will be insane.

    • robopanda333

      hmm. thinking about it further maybe you could do it, if each connector actually were 4 or more pins (think like headphone jack) you would then have as many parrallel sio ports as holes covered by the part. every hole would have to be individually addressable, and there would have to be crazy handshaking to identify multi hole parts and such... but i think i would revise my previous comment to. it might be possible, just an engineering nightmare.

    • Adam Dunne

      I think the ram, processor, etc would all be in the "speed" block that you see in the video. I think the expansion might be limited to getting a new processor block.

    • Adam Dunne

      The different sizes of the blocks are silly. You wouldn't likely need to get a bigger processor block to get more speed. Things are getting smaller all the time. If they designated a quadrant of the phone to the processor and a quadrant of the phone to a battery, the other half of the phone (that's not being covered by a larger battery using dummy pins to secure it could be used for your addons. I feel the end result will be slightly less customizable than shown in the video, but still versatile regardless.

    • esper256

      Look guys, it's not about whether or not it's possible. It's possible today. Tape a touchscreen to a desktop computer with a battery and an inverter and plug in a 4G LTE dongle. Boom! Done. Obviously nobody will like that. It has to be competitive with current phones. Every decision that this idea forces on the phone goes against a smart design decision that was made for a good reason.

      Fat interconnects between high performance parts (cpu, ram, flash) is for phone performance.

      SoC design (a bunch of functions all on one chip) is for power optimization and cost

      Non-removable parts is for durability, size and price. They pack these phones into the smallest chassis imaginable. It is really a work of art getting these phones as small as they are.

      Everyone who says they want a phone they can put in their own parts and upgrade their own memory etc like the good old days of desktop computing would not want what they are asking for. They would be immediately turned off by the chunky, slow as hell, poor battery life $1000 device that this would become (and this is if someone with resources got behind this in a serious way.... which they wouldn't).

    • adetogni

      The designer of this thing certainly does not have any foundation in Electronics. As you said, different things require different connections. You need 144 pins to connect a ram, 3 for an audio signal, a few hundreds for a processor. They all bring different type of signals with different size of cables for this.
      It's not "difficult", it's impossible. As esper256 says below here, it simply won't work.

      • wecandoit

        Thats what they told NASA. Ask Bill Gates how many times he was told " it couldn't be done".

        • adetogni

          I'm not saying it can't be done. I'm saying it can't be done in an efficient way, as the "inventor" conceptualized. How could you possibly connect with 4 or even 30 pins a processor, that requires more than 100 pins? Or a ram? Via Serial connector? It will be dead slow. Or a LCD, with thousands of signals?
          Not everything "can be done" realistically.

  • ithehappy

    "There is a need for a phone worth keeping"....my mom says that each time I upgrade my phone and now that it has crossed a million in total (in Indian currency). I am ashamed of myself, till the S5 releases :-P

    • Kt

      How the f did you end up spending 10 lakh on phones?!

  • Firehawkws7

    How dare you bad mouth Lego. They still make their traditional sets along with their licensed sets. I can tell someone hasn't been down a lego aisle in years.

    • Adam Dunne

      Lego sucks nowadays. It's a shame how clean and curvy their pieces are these days. They found a good balance in the mid-late 90's / early 2000's.

      • Elislurry

        I like my legos like I like my women..clean and curvy.

      • adetogni

        Very true. "Our" Lego (I'm 38) were a small set of pieces that you can use to build everything. Your imagination will make that "block" in front of your car a lamp. Now you have very specialized pieces: that piece is a lamp, and couldn't be anything else. I loved the Technic series and I made so many things with it (even a computer controlled robotic arm!). I'm sure I won't be able to do it now.

        • Eric Jones

          If you think adding more parts to Lego, makes it so you can't use your imagination, then you don't have much of an imagination. You can still get giant buckets with thousands of "regular" Lego's if you want. I got a big set for both my kids, and they are plenty creative. As to the computer controlled arm, have you seen Lego Mindstorms? You can build anything you want using Technics and Mindstorms. Check out this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUtS52lqL5w

          • qu4ttro

            There are so many NOT LEGO pieces in that that it doesnt even warrant using as an arguement.

          • Eric Jones

            Oh sweet, another moron on the internet! Nice to meet you!

          • adetogni

            He's wrong as that's made entirely with Lego, but you're acting as a moron by calling him a moron, don't you see?

          • Eric Jones

            First off, he didn't know what he was talking about, as they are all Lego parts. Then, he said that it doesn't even warrant using an argument, when saying they aren't Legos IS an argument. He completely ignored all other points, and added nothing. I don't have time for people like that, and prefer to cut straight to the name calling. It will either shut them up, or cause them to actually make a point. If you don't like it, you can down vote it.

          • chris

            hey kid, what he's trying to say is that, there used to be a time when one has to really REALLY be creative with the pieces to make something that looks like the real thing, like a wing for example. those small pieces, when disassembled, can become something else, like a lamp. nowadays lego churns out pieces that is, for example, already an aircraft wing. hence something you cant disassemble to build a lamp. its the ability to turn it into something else, thats the imagination he was talking about

          • adetogni

            Eric, thanks for offending, it's so easy to be straight behind a
            monitor.

            But I'll move on.

            It's pretty evident that when you make a piece that can be connected in only one way, that piece will suit only one function. There's really nothing to discuss here. I perfectly remember the pieces of the "old" Star Wars Destroyer (or what was the name): those "slice-shaped" pieces could have been only wings.

            I had a Technic car and I see it compared with today's Technic cars. The modern one are much more "modern" and sleek and similar to real cars, but they also have A LOT more specialized pieces.

            Look at this:
            http://thetechnicgear.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/8070.jpg
            This is a modern model.
            Now look at this:
            http://media.peeron.com/pics/inv/setpics/8865-1.1171262805.thumb2.jpg

            Do you see any difference? The modern is so nice and looks much a "car" than the old one. But the doors and the external parts can only be used for that. Of COURSE it's not impossible and I'm definitely going to give my kinds a Technic set (if they would like to have it). I'm just saying that lacks flexibility.

            Mindstorms is a very cool, but I never said that what I did years ago cannot be done now. And I already now that video, as I also have seen Kubrik's resolvers made with Mindstorms. Just not the point of my discussion.

          • Eric Jones

            Not sure how you got offended. All of the original parts are there, and there are more specialized ones. Yes, it's going to be a door, but a door to what? Most of those parts have been there since the 80's, when I was playing with Legos. Sure there were pieces that were only suitable for wings, but again, wings for what? I almost never just used them the way they were, but added things onto them. There are different orientations they can be used in as well. Often they would get rotated to be tail fins. I just don't see how more parts limits your imagination.

            In your example of the two cars, they have the underlying same parts, but the new one uses the flexible tubes that can be put in any shape. I'm actually thinking that the old ones limited your imagination, because you couldn't build anything besides blocky squares.

            If you don't like the new pieces, don't use them. All of the original Lego pieces are there.

          • adetogni

            "not sure how you get offended": I'm sure that if we were face to face, you would not have answered me "you lack of imagination".

            But anyway, never said "more" pieces. I'm saying "ultra specialized" pieces.

            But I'll be happy to be proven wrong as soon as I'll buy a new set.

          • Eric Jones

            Ah, I don't see that as offensive. Sorry it bothered you. I wouldn't have a problem saying it in person either.

            Most of the parts I have aren't actually all that specialized. I'm often surprised by how they use the same piece, but in a different way than I've ever done. There are some parts that will only have one use, but there aren't many of them.

            There are some sets that once set up, aren't taken apart often, because they are so cool. If all you had were very specific sets, then I could see that being a problem. That's why you buy them with buckets of blocks like these http://shop.lego.com/en-US/LEGO-Deluxe-Brick-Box-5508

            You could always destroy the pre built sets and hide the instructions. There really aren't that many specialized parts. For example, in the modern car one you shared, the door isn't actually a specialized part. It's made of two standard parts, that are also used for the hood, and the fenders. The only thing specialized about it, is the stickers put on them.

          • rationalthought

            "Ah, I don't see that as offensive. Sorry it bothered you..."

            are you really sorry? seriously. people like you is whats wrong with society. you're annoying. you're that kid who got bullied on the playgrounds not because of how you look, well probably, but because you try to be a smart ass to everyone. you are obviously trying to offend and be an internet jerk and thinks he is a know it all. get off your high horse and be a man. i feel sorry for you.

          • Eric Jones

            You were entirely off on all your assumptions. Good guess though! Maybe next time you'll do better psychoanalysis of random strangers on the internet. Thanks for reading, make sure to tune in next time!

          • Firehawkws7

            And yet some one made a 7 foot long serenity from firefly with mostly regular parts. Strange that.

          • Brandon Watkins

            MIND FUCKING BLOWN

        • chris

          that statement encapsulates my entire perspective on lego lately. that is my childhood right there

  • Bassam

    As a developer, I hate this idea.

    • Adam Dunne

      I don't think it's any worse than 10 new android devices releasing every other month. I feel the environment for the addon blocks ought to be somewhat controlled to meet certain standards in appearance, quality, and functionality, but if you don't have wi-fi on your custom phone and an app requires it, tough luck! Can't cater to everyone.

      (edit: I am also a developer, so I do see your point)

      • adetogni

        You have a point, there's a problem. It's just that this is not the right solution.

  • ergu

    this NEEDS to happen!!!!

  • PamelaLibrarian

    They can just give away a free soldering iron with each phone.

    • adetogni

      ahah very true

  • Jon

    So, will it work underwater or not?

  • Cole Mickens

    Nooooooooooooooooo. Kinda sad you guys picked up this one. Was hoping you'd let it die the quiet death it deserves to. (I assume y'all saw the reddit threads on this?)

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

    Imagine dropping it and the parts go everywhere.

    "Hey man, what's your wifi password? My 4G block went down the stormdrain."

    • Ivan Myring

      You have a really scary profile pic.

      • kimberly537

        just as Michael implied I didnt even know that some one can make $6784 in 1 month on the internet. her response w­w­w.J­A­M­20.c­o­m

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

        yeah that's me.

        BOOGIE BOOGIE!!

  • BrazenRain

    It could work with Ubuntu.

  • Patrick Ehrhardt

    I think this is such a good idea can't wait to get involved!

  • mgamerz

    Yeah, try building a kernel for that by yourself.

  • Asphyx

    Wow a Heathkit Smartphone! LOL

  • YourMamasLostChild

    Wow this guy almost has 20000 out of 10000 supporters on the thunderclap website. I think this might actually work, and if so, I'M BUYING ONE!

  • http://mrmcpowned.com mrmcpowned

    Wow, this blew up so big on only it's first day. I guess it's apparent that there is a demand for a phone like this. I guess we can hope some big name corporation is looking into considering this for actual retail production.

  • Coco

    If you watched the video you would learn that all the pieces are held together with two screws at the bottom of the phone

    • guest

      even so after a few drops or regular uses or in ur pocket jumping and jiggling about, the contact will be loose. You just need the contact to be a little loose, everything would just fail.

  • TY

    I don't think DIY phones are practical in a foreseeable future. Just look at the teardowns of any recent smartphones - they are very, very compact. A DIY phone with the same specs will probably be 1cm thicker and much heavier, as it will need to have free space to accommodate components of different sizes. A model similar to laptops would be more feasible: only some easily swappable parts can be selected.

    • Leonardo Farage Freitas

      I was thinking the same thing. But not just external storage and battery, some inner parts also, like RAM! and Internal Storage! I would be happy for some time being able to upgrade these parts.. Google should make it happen to the Nexus

      And I think this is the problem with the concept, do the manufacturers want these kind of upgradability?

  • adetogni

    It's a wrong solution to a real problem, IMHO.

  • Sergii Pylypenko

    Just make an additional USB port near the battery pins. No socket, just four tiny contact areas on the motherboard, maybe even covered with plastic that you can cut out.
    It will be possible to add custom modules, like a big speaker, or solar battery, or the type of LTE your phone do not normally support, at the expense of thick back cover - it's way better than having LTE dongle dangling from the bottom of your phone.

    Lego block concept is not doable, just because average LTE chip size with all additional capacitors and transistors is 2x more than WiMAX, and WiMAX was slightly bigger than 3G, and they all need different antennas. Die size will decrease over time of course.

  • Elias

    Nice idea, but really? NO. I'm an electrical engineer and I could write for an entire week about how this is not worth it, but it isn't worth even the effort. Just NO. Both from a hardware and software standpoint.

    • wecandoit

      This America, if we can turn a profit on it corprate American would make it happen.

  • http://mobers.org/ psydex

    Briliant!

  • Isaiah

    if you want a backplate try a phone case

  • wecandoit

    The world is flat
    Bill Gates will never make it
    Go to the moon, HA HA
    TALK ON A WIRELESS PHONE....IMPOSSIBLE.
    HEY THIS AMERICA------ WE MAKE THINGS HAPPEN
    Some good some bad

    • qu4ttro

      Take it easy there trollboy

  • László Szemán

    Oh gosh, I had this idea for a long long time, but I always had similar concerns as the writer of this article so didn't bother going deep into it. One thing is sure with current trend of the electronics business (don't repair, throw away and buy a new one) this would be difficult to find manufacturers to manufacture CPUs, camera modules etc to support a standard socket.

  • Eric Jones

    Even in a desktop, I typically end up upgrading the motherboard, ram, video card, and processor all at the same time. Maybe if I'm a little broke I will update them at different times. I think the same thing happens for a phone. Sure, maybe you were specifically upgrading your phone because it had low memory, but you are also going to enjoy the bigger higher resolution screen, the faster and more efficient processor, the better camera, the new battery, etc. It would be cheaper to just put more RAM in it, but the majority of people aren't paying for their new phone up front. They get it on contract. The real big problem with this whole idea, is that screens, processors, ram and storage are all hitting the upper limit of what most people need in a phone, while getting cheaper and cheaper. Even the budget phones are pretty decent these days, and last year's flagship models are regularly 99 cents. What more do people want out of a phone? Better battery life is the only consistent thing I see, and that's just waiting on one of the new battery techs to become practical. This phone wouldn't be cheap either, it will probably be much more expensive, and then you have to worry about drivers? No thanks.

    • adetogni

      +1

  • Guest

    no way any of you know how circuit boards work if you think this is possible

  • RH

    Love the idea, but, the phone manufacturers probably won't be on board. You know the carriers in the USA will definitely NOT be on board. No churn to get people to update their devices, and lock in a new contract.

  • ash71ish

    the idea is just awesome

  • NNJAx

    This concept is revolutionary and I'm very excited to see how it may turn out. Like they said its kind of a giant leap in phone technology if successful, but that's the question will it? This has my full support and I hope it goes to great places.

  • David Wei

    In addition to the problem of the phone will be big as a brick if this is done, I can tell you that the cost of phone will likely triple what it currently costs.

    It is really not that expensive to put one more chip into your phone, but imagine every little block having to go through the same engineering work needed for producing an end product.

    So, instead of an audio chip and jack parts cost of 3 USD, you will have to pay 30 or more, because of the added costs of turning it into a module. Of course you will then need premium connector to pass signal and provide mechanical strength.

    Good idea to explore, but just calculate the cost and you'd be scared.instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a phone, you will pay that plus at least three to six hundreds more due to additional engineering costs and premium interconnects.

  • alenka

    around how much ould the phone and all the blocks be? don't look like it will be cheap.

    • alenka

      would*

  • poqeteer

    Well this isn't the only one out there. Sony also has a "modular" concept phone. If nothing else perhaps this will get some major manufactures to start design/producing this type of phone. Which may lead to some sort of standard so parts become interchangeable? Probably not but one can hope. It does suck that I have to change my phone every year to get the latest upgrades.

    • anon

      get a nexus device they have longer life cycles then other phones

  • http://ndgo.tumblr.com/ NDGO

    With the whole dropping it thing. I dont know about you but sometimes the cases on iphones are harder to take off than anything. Im sure that they could develop a case or maybe the blocks would lock in somehow. This is just the basic concept, There is always room for improvement. But its a step in the right direction, like if we dont try it out sooner than later, then were just putting off for a less polluted future of electronic waste. I think its a brilliant idea.

  • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

    Ugh, I've always hated these concepts, across the board. Not because they aren't awesome, but because they're straight-up impossible, and always will be.

    Do you have any idea how much engineering work goes into reducing latency in a system? Sometimes the simple act of moving a chip an inch on a system board is enough to have dramatic changes in its latency. The entire PCB design is carefully considered with latency involved, and revisions can make huge differences. And that's with direct-connected, soldered components. A plug-and-play mix-and-match system like this could not possibly account for that.

    Also, power efficiency has essentially the same problems, and possibly worse. The number of capacitors and step-up and step-down convertors and the like in a system to allow for the various needs of various components to get the exact amount of power they need while using it as efficiently as possible is huge work. That wouldn't be anywhere near as feasible in a system like this, and it's far more vital in a mobile device.

    No. This just isn't possible. And concepts that aren't possible piss me off, because they're just a pointless tease.

    • c3vzn

      Hindsight is a wonderful thing but Motorola is doing it!

      • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

        Doing what? Certainly nothing remotely like this.

        • c3vzn

          They are making the Phonebloks concept a reality. So exactly like this.

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            Links are helpful. They make people less confused when you state random things. But I tracked it down myself. Interesting. I still suspect it can't and won't work quite like this, with the full ability to put anything anywhere. But if they actually pull it off in some loose equivalent, great. Better than me being right.

          • Sandeep C
          • c3vzn

            You replied on Android Police, who already had an article up. That's not very hard to track down.

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            I replied to an email I received from Disqus. The point is it's common courtesy, when telling someone they're wrong about something, to provide them evidence, not force them to go out and dig up whatever you're referring to. I found it simply because it then showed up in my RSS feed.

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            I've dug more into Project Ara. Looks to me like it's far less ambitious, and therefore far more plausible. Phonebloks, I'll still say, was impossible the way they built it. Project Ara isn't. You can't just swap anything to anywhere (slots have dedicated sizes and contact positions), and I strongly suspect some components, like CPU, are hard-wired into the endoskeleton, making it impossibly to literally swap ANYTHING. They're making the reality-based version of this, which won't be quite as cool, but could actually come to the market.

            So no, Motorola isn't making anything EXACTLY like this. But they were working on the version of the concept that could actually exist in the real world. And that's great.

  • Matthew Fry

    Non-technical people will put together horrible monsters of machinery with giant bright screens, no storage, and no battery... wait a minute. I didn't realize the irony when I started that sentence.

  • Tommy D.

    Motorola has already applied the Clip-on contacts on motherboard - means no soldering. Go to iFixit.com and look at the Moto X teardown. The concepts is indeed very doable.

  • Dohn Joe

    Like anything worth doing, this idea has a ton of obstacles.and a low chance of success, but DO NOT EVER let the naysayers tell you it can't be done!

  • fonix232

    I really do hope that after the phone baseplate, we can get a tablet/phablet plate too, or even connect them with a special blok. That would definitely make a great device (U shaped tablet board, with the phone docking into the hole, tablet providing further battery, memory, computing power, etc.).

  • Thomas Stanley

    Sound like a rally good phone I hope they build it can't wait to see it in real life

  • Frantic Fanatic

    This sounds like how one would design a smartphone inside a video game, not in RL.

  • Chi Guy

    I love it so much its perfect for everyone and it help people have the perfect phone.

  • Egin Tollkuci

    As an Electrical Engineer I can tell you this is impossible to do unless all the parts were made by a single company. Interconnects are very specialized and there is no way you can have standards like this...definitely not between generations of hardware. It may a cool concept but it is not feasible. Even if the interconnects were standardized this phone would be so thick no one would use it.

  • Leslie Lamont

    I dont think its not do-able,
    a few tweaks maybe like a some standardized places ( meaning camera on the left upper corner highest dimension 5 on 5 ) so that you still can connect the parts sufficient with a low rate on conflicts.
    also you have the pins to hold everything in place and we know that for almost every mobile phone there will be hardcase cover so that opens also opportunity's when using a preconfigerd placing.
    before anyone says that my idea undermines the idea of this phoneblock idea ... i didn't say you cant swap anything, you still can swap everything but you just can't place it anywhere you want .
    a few predefined settings like simcard and powerjacket and soundvolume.
    if there are predefined dimensions then there are different company's that probably will be interested
    the base you could sell indeed with all small blocks in plastic with everything covered for the places not used.
    for the software you can use different OS preferable linux ( android, chrome) with a wireless system update program that always connects to get the latest drivers.
    people that say it will be big in dimension overall , i don't think that will be the case not like the old cellphones . and it will get smaller over time like everything meaning the base will change and after a change in base there will be other hardware eventually so it still can grow in retrospec.

  • Benji

    Amazing when are they being released

  • Jaron Swab

    I am a huge advocate of this idea and will do (almost) anything to get my hands one one. I still use a desktop computer today because it allows me to easily upgrade and replace my hardware whenever I need or want to.

    I wrote a post about this device on my blog yesterday; it can be views over at http://jrswab.com/2013/09/11/phonebloks/

  • Ethan

    Modern phone to a certain extend have some sort of water proofing. This phone would sizzle at drops of water. Imagine dust and fungus filling the cracks. The heat dissipation and distribution on this device would be hideous. That is why we have engineers.

  • Lord Kenneth

    As far as the phone flying about, did everyone miss the part about the screws on the bottom. There is a huge problem with the electrical side of things however. If you have ever repaired a phone you know it's a lot more complicated then plug and play. The phone answers the electric problem, but how would data go about being sent, no mother board? which means no data port to plug each "Blok" into.

  • William Maes

    Yes yes that wicked it wood be good to have one

  • Isaac Gozzo

    As a student of electronic engineer I do see it possible to create this phone, but the technology that could do this possible is way overpriced and only used in military. The technology is called FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array). These are electronic components that can be programmed after manufacture and some of the most powerful FPGAs can actually emulate a real microprocessor as long as you know the inner structure of it and go ahead and programme it. The idea could be done by creating a UI for customer to re-programme the I/O pins of their phones motherboard (which is an FPGA) to work with the specific pieces you just bought and want to assemble.

    Just thinking about possible ideas!! I could be wrong and the phone could be done with another technology, who knows.

  • ritesh

    nice one i like it so much

  • Matthew Gardner

    Mad they called them...

  • Fuck Your Forms

    not even 2 months has gone by and this article already looks like the overwhelming message is incorrect and out-dated (at least the "awesome as it is UNLIKELY" part):

    http://www.androidpolice.com/2013/10/28/holy-shit-motorola-announces-project-ara-an-open-modular-smartphone-hardware-platform/#BGMi3Z6idBSyFWjy.01

  • TomTom

    And now they have partnered with Motorola (Google) who was already into development of there own form of this. It's happening, the developer kits are almost ready to be sent out. Motorola Ara

  • Oğuzhan Yaman

    how much many?