'A Phone Worth Keeping': Phonebloks Conceptual Cell Phone's Parts Can Be Switched Out/Upgraded Individually

September 11, 2013


This is the conceptual Phonebloks cell phone. It consists of a single main board with modular components (including the screen) that can be switched out at the user's desire. Plan on using your phone as a camera for the day? Add a nicer camera module. Are you a grandma who only carries a cell phone hoping your grandkids will call? Remove everything and add a giant battery pack. The hope is that all the big phone manufacturers will compete to make the best components available, the problem being that none of the big phone companies will bother. Just keeping it real.

The Phonebloks concept features the display portion of the phone, with a circuit board behind it showing a peg board-style design that the blocks can be inserted into. Each block has a designated place on the phone, and each is labeled with a symbol of its function, such as Bluetooth and battery.

The phone is disassembled by removing two screws on the bottom of the handset, at which point the board can be removed and the blocks with it. In theory, a new block can be purchased and used to replace the old one, replacing a faulty component or updating an existing component to something more robust or higher capacity.

Admittedly, a progressive concept. And I would love to see a phone explode like a LEGO playset whenever it's dropped. "SEARCH THE FLOOR -- HAS ANYBODY SEEN MY WI-FI?" I really am all for it, I just don't see it happening. Still, I've been surprised in the past. Like just this past weekend my roommate actually brought a girl home. Whatever happened with her anyways, Derek? "That was my sister, bro." Okay, so maybe I haven't ever been surprised in the past.

Hit the jump for a video about the phone and what you can do to help make it a reality.

Thanks to Ferrous, James K, DustBoner, alex, CC and Pista, who all want cell phone that double as laser blasters. Right? GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT.

  • wilson booster

    This is the best smart phone device, I have ever seen. It has the fantastic futuristic features. Great Smart phone!


  • Boaz

    This was attempted in 2007 by a company called Modu. Unsurprisingly, they failed terribly - closing down in 2011. The economics behind this simply doesn't work.

  • da1nonlysage

    Even IF this worked I don't see it being any different or cheaper than the current market. Parts are parts and they still cost money. Just because they're interchangable doesn't mean squat.

    In hindsight it may be cheaper for consumers, but corporations and capitalism don't want things cheaper for consumers.

  • Prometheus

    The fact that it is called a speed block disappoints me.

  • Guest

    Components: You're doing it right.

  • Jason Moreton

    Cool. Phones made of lego.

  • It would, this reminds me of a scene in Vernor Vinge's Rainbow's End, where the protagonist is trying to tear apart a car and keeps finding black rectangular boxes that state "no user serviceable parts within".

  • Iknowyou

    Yeah but buying a new block every time is probably going to cost you at least half of what you would pay for a new phone. I can say it seems like a very good environmental idea and I will support it for that. Also sooner or later electronic devices are simply going to be chips in the wrist with the free space around you being the Operating System.

  • Matt Kemmerer

    This phone design can't possibly work. The guy who made the video has no idea how the technologies he's talking about actually function. His idea is bad and he should feel bad.

  • dingusthemonique

    Please explain rather than blindly bash.

  • Matt Kemmerer

    There are a bunch of problems here but I'll pick out the two most obvious.
    1) Most of these component are tightly integrated with other components on the board to conserve space. Basically every piece would have to have redundant components inside of it in order to make it autonomous. This would blow the size of the phone up exponentially to the point where this phone would be humongous.
    2) The hardest part of designing integrated circuits is limiting something called "Crosstalk". Basically when two pieces of copper carrying a signal are next to one another they can interfere with each other (look up inductive current if you really want to know why). An enormous amount of time is spent during design trying to layout all the traces on the board so they don't interfere with one another. Again this has to be done because we're talking about traces that are separated by less than the width of a human hair so that all these lines will fit in a board you can stick in your pocket. In order to make a board you could just arbitrarily plug components into the way he describes it would have to be huge or only accept certain components in certain places which kinda defeats the purpose of what he's talking about.

    If he'd bothered to run this by any CompE or EE professor they could have told him why this wasn't possible.

  • Klaws

    Then why is Motorola making it?

  • Matt Kemmerer

    It's not on the market yet so we don't know what restrictions it will have. I would wager it's nowhere near as flexible as what this concept was.

  • Joshua Maffe

    It's a great idea, but it's not as flashy as something like this.


  • Aniroc

    I quite like the idea and I hope it becomes a reality.

    The reason no big phone company will bother is because they probably make more money selling phones every 2 years, same as computers/laptops etc.

  • thatoneguy

    Micro transactions over a period of time yield high revenues, charge 40 bucks for a battery, 60 for a speaker, you can make a killing off of individual pieces compared to a base that can't be upgraded and people will wait several years to upgrade. It's kind of how trading cards run so long, just think of how they would be if the sold cards in only limited decks rather than installations of cards that people would favor. In doing so causing them to make multiple transactions to achieve a product they truly desire. With time the cards become outdated and then they buy more cards to fill their needs. In conclusion companies could make killings on these rather than full phones.

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