Phonebloks seeks to make phones more customizable, environmentally friendly

Earlier this week, when Apple announced two new iPhones, there was little else being covered in the world of tech news. But a Dutch designer by the name of Dave Hakken chose that time to begin what he hopes is a quiet revolution.

His idea is called Phonebloks, a phone that is comprised of a screen, a peg-board, and whatever ‘blocks’ you want to use to make up the rest of the device. He’s currently trying to drum up support via a Thunderclap campaign, encouraging people to share the concept over social media.

The concept is straightforward: Instead of using a phone for a short amount of time and trading up when the phone breaks, you can customize the phone to suit your needs and replace parts as they wear out. As demonstrated in the video, the use places the Lego-like bricks of their choice into the board to get a phone configuration that best suits their needs, and replaces and upgrades the parts as needed.

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Some news outlets and commenters online have said that sacrificing style just doesn’t seem like something people will be ready to do in order to have a more environmentally-friendly phone. Companies like Apple and Nokia have made the style of their phones such a key part of the smartphone experience, it’s difficult for a lot of people to give that up in favour of what Phonebloks has to offer. For many people, a blocky, grey brick isn’t the esthetic their after, and if we’re being honest here, it reminds me of some of the Palm Pilots from around a decade ago.

Then there’s the problem of the companies themselves, and their interest in Phonebloks. Part of what Hakken suggests could be so novel about his idea is the ability to use parts from your preferred brands, essentially giving you the ability to make your perfect phone. To make that utopia happen, all those companies would have to agree to make parts just for the Phonebloks device, and while I can’t tell you much about the costs that go into a mobile phone, I imagine that the sales margins on whole phones are better than selling them one piece at a time.

Whether you see the phone as revolutionary or just a good idea that won’t go anywhere, the phone is still just a concept for now, and it will likely be quite some time before we see a finished product. Still, in light of Apple’s new devices, released just a year after their previous iPhone, Hakken’s phone is some good food for thought when it comes to the disposability of mobile devices.

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