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Photo by Dave Hakkens

Phonebloks: A Radical Build Away From E-waste


This is a community post, untouched by our editors.

Not-so-radical designs

It is rare to find radical new approaches to mobile phone design. For years we have seen phones shrink beyond imagination, only to re-grow to a size too big for your pocket. Yes, these phones have experienced improved functions, ergonomics and appearances. Their improvements and growing complexity carry with them a worrying issue: E-Waste

As technology progresses and phones become ever smarter, faster, durable and smaller, they replace each other rapidly and become more costly to fix. Some argue this to be planned obsolescence, which involves designing a product with a limited useful lifetime. 

A quick ‘Q&A’ on planned obsolescence:

Ever tried paying to fix your broken phone and noticed high maintenance costs? Ever tried replacing the battery in your iPhone? Noticed how easily your screen scratches or paint chips off? How many ‘generations’ of iPhone do you wait before replacement?

- Functional obsolescence

New operating system not working on your current phone? Unable to read documents in saved in newer versions?

- Systematic obsolescence

 What was fashionable 10 years ago? Was it flip phones? Candy-bar phones? What is it now?

- Style obsolescence

Fact: Products, especially electronic ones, become obsolete.

If a company does nothing to address this inevitable obsolescence, what is their design policy and how does it link to planned obsolescence?

Phonebloks designing out inevitable obsolescence

Hakkens’ conceptual design, the ‘phoneblok’ has the same components as any other phone. It is a phone in all shape and function. What differs is its customisability and ultimate reparability. Utilising ‘bloks’ the phone’s components can be chosen and replaced as and when you wish. Whilst radical to smartphones, the concept is already applied in the desktop computer market. 

As your needs change:

  • New operating system requires faster chip? – replace it!
  • Battery declining? – replace it!

As your wants change 

  • Want a better camera? – replace it!
  • Want a better screen? – replace it!

Reducing e-waste

As highlighted in his video ’we throw away millions of electronic devices because they get old and become worn out, but usually it is only one of the components that causes the problem.’ This phone will enable us to reduce waste by replacing only those broken or obsolete components. Greatly reducing waste and probably saving us money.

The potential for this concept is great. Show your support at: Dave Hakkens’ website here

See my follow up article here