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Monday, 11 November 2013

The Phone Worth Keeping

Mobile phones are no longer what they used to be. For the past ten years, OEMs have transformed the ordinary cell phone into a modern pocket computer capable to satisfy our increasing needs for mobility and ease of access.

However, there are a lot of problems which accompany this fashion. The current market models follows the one year upgrade strategy. That means a new piece of hardware comes in the stores roughly every twelve months. This requires us to buy a completely new device in order to receive the new updates and cutting edge-technology that comes along.

The problem with this is we no longer need the old devices and they often end up in the dump. E-waste pollution is an ever increasing threat to the environment and people's health. Along, millions of dollars are lost in perfectly usable hardware that gets thrown away. Even the broken plates and circuitry have value as a lot of rare metals like gold and silver are used in production.

Well, a solution has come to light. Phonebloks is a revolutionary concept of a modular cell phone. It started off as a kickstarter campaign and only days after went viral all over the internet. The idea is to produce a phone that is divided into interchangeable modules or blocks. These blocks would represent each important piece of hardware present in the device - camera, battery, connectivity (wifi, bluetooth, etc.) and so on. Instead of changing the entire phone, you need to only change the certain block. You can imagine in as a standard desktop PC. You can always go and upgrade your video card for instance and still use your other up to date hardware devices. This has several very important applications.

1. Greatly Reduce E-Waste Pollution

You only need to dispose of the broken modules, without the need to throw away working parts. This will make collection and recycling of electronic products a far easier job. Also it will, in general, greatly reduce toxic contamination from the heavy metals present in the circuitry.

2. Reduce Cost

Of course, as you don't need a new phone, but a new module, prices of maintenance and upgrades for the devices will come a lot cheaper. This will help a lot of people with lower funds gained the so much needed accessibility modern life requires.

3. Unlock Customization

Imagine Lego pieces. You can build whatever you want with them. Much similar, with the modular phone you can also create a device that suits your needs and interests. Just pick out the proper blocks and you have your own unique piece of gear. It's like tailoring a suit to your measurements. At last we can have exactly what we want in our phone. This can eliminate the need to carry a lot of extra equipment. For instance, nowadays we carry a music player, camera, phone, pocket PC or a tablet and dozens of chargers to support them all. Modern day smartphones usually have each and one of these devices integrated into their system. However, a phone will be only good in a number of them and will always lack something. Well, if you have a few blocks in your backpack that you can use and change on the go, depending on your need, you can pretty much eliminate all frustration in that manner.

Now, when I first saw the Phonebloks video, I was highly pessimistic. I didn't imagine a kickstarted campaign as a competition for the big OEM's like Apple and Samsung. However, recently, fresh information made me reconsider. Motorola announced project Ara. This is their version of the modular phone and it progresses steadily. For those unaware, Motorola is the oldest mobile and radio communication manufacturer in the US. Also in 2012 Motorola became part of Google and well, we can safely assume that Google knows their stuff. Project Ara and Phonebloks have not merged into one, but both developers are working hand in hand to produce the future equipment.

From current point of view there are problems, of course

Unfortunately, unless a new, revolutionary hardware integration system is devised, the interchangeability the modular phone offers will suffer with performance. A simple fact is, when we consider the volume of the device, a tightly packed case can carry much more and more potent hardware components. The fact that every piece of Ara can be removed means the appliance in total can carry much less memory banks and processor chips than a regular iPhone.

Apple surely conquered the marked with their market model and it's possible it will hamstring the idea of modularity in it's embryo stages, as it did with a the previous - Intel’s Whitebook initiative.

For now, public opinion sides with modularity. All we can do is support the battle and have our hopes up. If you wish to follow up on the concept and learn more, here is where you can do it:

Disclaimer: This is not a part of any marketing campaign to support the cause of either company. This is a consumer happy to see a possible end of the current market models in place.