Have all iPhone and Android Devices Been Rendered Obsolete by Phonebloks?

Phonebloks may be changing the way we use phones.

Imagine, if you will, a world where consumers are no longer at the mercy of huge companies and their yearly redesigns of smartphones. Imagine being able to upgrade your phone, piece by piece, without having to get an entirely new device.

Phonebloks has imagined this, and they may have just begun the process of rendering all current phones completely obsolete.

Phonebloks' plan is to allow the consumer to customize phones using “blocks”, each of which can be removed, replaced and upgraded whenever the consumer desires. This would potentially allow us to replace a cracked screen, increase the processing speed or even upgrade the camera without purchasing an entirely new device. Certainly sounds nice.

I’m just a humble journalist, so I’m not sure of the technical minutiae - but the basic premise is that you have access to blocks, each of which are dedicated to a specific purpose (camera, memory, processing etc.). When a block becomes outdated or if you want to customize your phone for a specific purpose you’re able to pop out the blocks and put in a new or better one. 

**I kind of want to play with LEGOS right now.**

What Does This Mean For Gaming?

Given the option to upgrade the graphical prowess and processing of your device gives gamers what essentially could be the first fully upgradable portable console (and phone). No longer would we have to go out and get a brand new phone to play the latest Infinity Blade, we could just pop a new block in and go about our day.

The downside of this would be the fact that Phonebloks has zero install base, therefore making it a risk to any developer or publisher that wants to design games for it. Specifics on the OS and the options of running something like iOS or Android have not yet been discovered, but I’d imagine it could run them if the powers that be don’t threaten to sue the crap out of people.

If you feel like Phonebloks is something you want to get behind they’ve started a Thunderclap campaign to get the word out. Click here to check out their ideas. 

Are you interested in Phonebloks? Sound off in the comments down below and maybe one day we can burn our iPhones together.

Published Sep. 16th 2013
View Comments
  • Ste Grainer
    Featured Correspondent
    Interesting concept, but there are a lot of challenges with that approach. (I can't get to the Thunderclap site at the moment to see whether they address any of these.)

    1) Hardware support is hard. The amount of infrastructure needed to support interchangeable parts vs. a known set of hardware is much larger. Every possible component needs additional support resources. For a desktop computer, that infrastructure is negligible but mobile device resources are still fairly constrained.

    This problem is what bogged down Windows in its early stages more than any other.

    2) The only logical choice for OS is Android or potentially Windows Phone. Building an OS is hard; without a large, experienced team to do that, you'll have to rely on an existing OS. Apple won't be licensing iOS to third-party hardware vendors. Microsoft is very unlikely to (especially since they're buying Nokia). Android is available, but has its own quirks.

    3) Traction. All of the major players in the mobile business right now had some way of gaining traction to start. Apple had an established fan base and a charismatic sales pitch, Microsoft had enterprise buy-in and sheer market domination in a semi-related industry (and have gained seemingly little traction with those advantages), Google opened the platform up and gave established phone vendors and carriers the tools to compete with the new wave of device capabilities.

    These Phonebloks seem consumer-friendly (for the more technically savvy consumers who don't mind doing a little work), but are even more carrier-unfriendly. The carriers rely on that yearly or biennial renewal as part of their business model, and Phonebloks will seem like nothing more than a pesky mosquito to squish.

    The carrier model is certainly ripe for disruption, but it will either take something so radically different that they fail to comprehend it fast enough or a concerted effort from a large enough player (or group of players). I don't believe Phonebloks has either of those advantages.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    Yeah I was thinking the same thing. It'd be interesting to see the concept take off, but I don't think any of the larger companies would allow it to flourish.

    I guess we'll see eventually though.
  • TheTreyStevens
    That's a really cool concept. I look forward to hearing more about it!
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    Yeah I thought it was neat too. It'd be nice of it got off the ground enough. Even if it just creates a niche market.

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