Sunday, September 15, 2013


If you weren't already aware, there's this new product concept going around called Phonebloks. With the attention it's starting to get, I thought I'd throw my hat into the discussion. The basic concept is an almost lego approach to the concept of smart phones. Every part of your phone is made up of building blocks, i.e the processor, camera, screen, radio, etc. What Phonebloks aims to do is modularize each of those blocks. In this way if your phone is too slow, you can easily swap out the processor block for a faster one. Your screen breaks, swap out the display.

Let me start by saying this, I in no way want to discourage people who think this project is a good idea. This is merely my observation. I've seen a lot of projects like this. I remember a couple years ago there being a computer that you would be able to roll up like a mat and carry with you; the video for which can still be found on YouTube. The thing that you have to remember when seeing these ideas for products is that most of the time they're not designed by engineers or anyone who understands the nitty-gritty of the design. More often than not, they're designed by industrial design majors as part of a final project. From what I've seen of this project, that seems to be the case for this as well.

Lets start with the biggest selling point of the product, the modules. Every piece connects to a sort-of perf board via copper connectors on the back of each module. Each module can be placed in any spot on the board and configured in any way. Anyone who has ever attempted to connect a USB cable the wrong way can understand why this concept won't work. They're has to be a standard as to where each connection goes so that components don't get damaged and everything can communicate properly. Which brings up another issue, standards. There are at least 2 standards. Look at text; there's UTF-8 and UTF-16. DVD, there was laser disc, standard definition, high definition, HD-DVD, and now Bluray. I can't image that every component on the phone is going to have the same pinout, and be able to interact with other components in the same way.

I think what I'm trying to say is that while this is an interesting concept, you should be aware of who's designing such a thing. Are they actually a professional in fields that would have to design such a thing? Or are they someone who thought of a cool idea and were able to make excellent visuals to represent it? My prediction, don't expect to see anything like this on store shelves anytime soon.


  1. Exactly! Great observation. I feel these kinds of media-friendly "engineering" concepts really deter true innovation. I'd point to the Hyperloop, and how that was such a buzz topic, and yet, the idea was just thrown on a napkin, last minute, by a guy who made his earnings with paypal, not mass transit, and who has no plans to pursue the idea.

    1. @Anonymous hopefully by now you've learned when to use, and when not to use absolute statements.

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