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Phonebloks is Reimagining the Smartphone With a Lego-Like Design Phonebloks is Reimagining the Smartphone With a Lego-Like Design

Phonebloks is Reimagining the Smartphone With a Lego-Like Design

by Meghan Neal

October 2, 2013

Dave Hakkens has an idea that rethinks one of the most ubiquitous gadgets in the world: the smartphone. And people are taking notice.

Hakkens is the guy behind Phonebloks, a new kind of phone that's comprised of several detachable parts—"blocks"—kind of like electronic Legos. The thinking is, instead of having to ditch your whole phone if one part breaks or you want to upgrade a specific component, you can isolate and swap out the relevant block.

That's a good thing, considering electronic waste is one of the biggest waste streams out there, and phones are one of the main causes. According to Smart Planet, 700 million smartphones were sold last year, and within two years the majority of them will wind up in a landfill. 

Dividing up a phone into various components is an innovative way to tackle that problem. Got a crack in the lower right corner? Replace that block. "If for instance your phone is getting a little slow, you can just upgrade the block that effects the speed," Hakkens explains in a YouTube video about the idea.

Aside from cutting back on e-waste, the Lego-style phone is unique in that it's customizable—which puts some control back in the hands of the consumer, instead of the device manufacturers. Basically you can build your own version of the phone to suit your needs. Maybe you don't need a thin, lightweight device, but you want great speakers and audio quality. If you want the best camera possible, find the one you like and add it to the phone.

There are many options: solar-powered batteries, a sensitive screen for visually impaired people, a lightweight device for travelers, for example. The parts would be available at the Blockstore, which is basically an app store for hardware. There, you could pick and choose the brands you want to support.

Personally, I like that it opens up the smartphone playing field a bit—a market that's increasingly dominated by a few powerful companies trying to trap you in their ecosystem. While that strategy is good for business, it's wasteful. When Apple comes out with a new version of the iPhone, folks toss out not only their old phones, but cases, chargers, and accessories too.

Phonebloks is still a concept only, and Hakkens is hoping to garner enough interest from would-be buyers to attract investors, designers, entrepreneurs, and developers to turn the idea into reality. It's an approach to innovation that's becoming more and more popular: Gauge if there's a market for the product first, and if so, build it.

In this case, the demand definitely seems to be there. The Thunderclap campaign for the phone is underway, and already more than half a million people have supported it. The phone has also generated a lot of buzz on social media and publicity from tech writers. If you'd like to try out the build-your-own phone, add your voice to the crowd here.

Image via Phonebloks

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