Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Modular smartphones are definitely not the future

In 2013, a tech start-up called Phonebloks teased the concept of a modular smartphone. The idea was, when you want an improved camera, longer battery life, more memory, or to upgrade any feature on your smartphone, you simply replace a compartment rather than go out and buy a whole new device. This would allow smartphone users to prioritise features. For example, amateur photographers could sacrifice speakers for a larger camera or if a longer lasting battery was developed, they could easily swap out their old one.

Project Ara
Google even toyed with the idea of bringing a modular phone to market for a while. They called it ‘Project Ara'. Google proved with prototypes that it was technically possible to make but on 2nd September 2016, rumours emerged that Google had shelved the project. This may have been with good cause.

Modular smartphones would never have been commercially viable. Forcing the customer to prioritise features when they could buy the latest Samsung, iPhone, HTC, or Google phone and get the best of everything would never have worked. Admittedly, I imagine many would be drawn to the personalisation aspect of owning a smartphone that they basically custom build. However, moto maker and quirky phone cases offer enough personalisation for many.

Furthermore, modular smartphones may have caused customers to be more hesitant before upgrading their phones which would ultimately cost the manufacturers in the long run. If consumers could simply buy a higher quality camera module every few years, they would think twice before splashing out on a whole brand new smartphone.

Although modular phones appear to have been scrapped, I hope that the technology developed for them is put to use on other products as it would be fascinating to see where modular technology might actually come in useful.