Modular Phones – What Are They And What You Need To Know
Cell phone developers, such as Circular Devices and Google, are starting to work on a new type of phone that can be updated and upgraded without having to buy a whole new phone. With most phones today, when something (anything) breaks, we often have to send it off for repair or get it completely replaced. Many people, including many forward thinking cell phone creators, are wondering if this is wasteful or simply the way of the world when it comes to mobile technology. See Google Modular Phone here: http://www.wired.com/2014/04/google-project-ara/
These multi-component phones consist of usually three or four main parts that can be replaced or updated as needed. With the Puzzlephone (created by a Finnish company called Circular Devices) the phone breaks down into what they call the “heart,” “brain,” and “spine.” The heart is the battery, the spine is the hardware (buttons, frame, etc.) and the brain is the processor and camera. Each part can be replaced or repaired as needed, without having to throw away the other two.
From where we stand as an independent cell phone repair company, we have some questions about these new products, but in this article we’d like to first talk about some things we think consumers should ask before purchasing a multi-component cell phone. Keep in mind that these phones have yet to hit stores, but some are slated to be released in 2015, so researching now is probably a good idea.
So far pricing has not been put out there yet on these phones. For the Puzzlephone, funding to create and market still needs to be secured, so a release date of 2015 is not set in stone. Regardless of that, the phones will need to be competitive in pricing relative to other phones currently on the market or purchases could be low.
As a whole, the multi-component phones need to be competitive with other phones on the market price-wise, but what about the replacement parts? Or repairs? If any of the three or four replacement parts far exceeds the price of even half the phone price, or more than other single piece units, who will really be up for going that route? We think developers need to keep that in mind when establishing prices for replacement parts.
So far we know that the Puzzlephone will be open sourced, and will start with an Android OS. It also sounds like there are plans to create it with other operating systems as well. But what will the phone itself be like? Another interface might be overwhelming to people. But a copy or look-alike of a current phone might seem cheesy. We aren’t really sure yet, but what we do know is how it works and what apps are available will be a main concern to most consumers.
Actual Length of Life
It has been reported by some that these new phones could last up to ten years. Nowadays, most cell phones need to be replaced within a few years’ time. If we moved to longer lasting cell phones, would that shift other companies, such as Apple or Motorola to jump on the bandwagon and create their own as well? We aren’t sure, but even if the larger companies didn’t create this particular type of phone, it could encourage them to work on the durability and life of their current models.
Although it is probably not thought about often, most cell phones today are reused but not recycled. Most of us hand down our phones when they are no longer of use to us, or sell them online. After that phone has passed through many hands and is no longer operable, it can be brought to a local store and tossed in a ‘cell phone recycling” bin. We may think that these phones are getting recycled, but in fact many of them end up in large heaps in poor, under-developed countries. Not only would multi-component phones be more easily repaired than others, they may also reduce waste. If they really last as long as has been said, they could have a huge impact on our national and world-wide tech-trash problem.
If the design for these new phones creates a product that lasts ten years, will it really be able to keep up with technology? Our phones change in size and shape considerably, going from large to small and then back to large. We want them thin, but we want big batteries. And we want excellent reception, but no antenna. If our views of any of these things changes in the next five years, will these phones be able to adjust? Or will they be so adjustable that they adapt better than other phones out on the market?
There are so many questions yet to be answered about these phones, and yet they seem creative, functional and durable (in theory anyway). Our hope is that they are realized in the near future, are affordable for most people to buy, and their parts are not only replaceable, but also repairable!