A few years ago, the concept of modular phones was spreading like wildfire. At the time, it was deemed the future of the smartphone industry. The idea of being able to fully customize the features of your phone to your liking and update it whenever necessary is highly desirable.
Somewhere in between though, it seems like these modular phones were sort of just dropped. What exactly happened?
Some Key Players
The device in Google’s Project Ara in its initial conception was a metal endoskeleton in which modules from various manufacturers will be slided in. Features like the camera, the screen, the processors, and the ports are completely customizable and removable. It’s development was reportedly put into cessation.
Phonebloks differs in execution of the device modularity. The initial concept involves the use of lego block-like modules which can be attached to a flat board which serves as the body of the device.
The current modular smartphone market share is small. The way modular phones are implemented right now makes it less appealing to use than standalone phones. We start with the high price of these phones in retail. At the same time, the variety in modules is limited since not much of the manufacturers are embracing the concept. Plus, most of the time there is nothing the modules can do that fixed parts in a regular phone can’t. With nothing really much going for it, we see why the idea just sort of disappeared.
For those who thought that the modular phones ending up as a flop was a bummer, there is hope. Google seems to be working on another modular phone, with the company recently filing a patent for a device of such design.
While the patented device is not as customizable as the modular phone in Project ARA, it will allow the user to switch out components such as the RAM, back cover, and camera of the phone according to their desired specifications. In the patent, it is also suggesting the idea of a made-to-order device, in which the user will specify the specifications of the device which they will receive.
If this development continues, upgrading devices may not be as expensive. At the same time, less e-waste will be generated since damages in components would not entail replacing the entirety of the device.
We shouldn’t be too optimistic though. After all, this is just a patent. Not all patents eventually turn to a real device. For now, let’s just keep ourselves open to such a possibility and hope that these phones will make an excellent comeback in its second attempt.