Saving the world and your phone with Phonebloks

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: September 11, 2013

Often in this industry you'll see how often tech bloggers will say there's no more innovation left - nobody has anything more creative to offer than what we have right now. Every once in a while you'll have a small breakthrough where people will raise their eyebrows or give a thumbs up, but for the most part we seem convinced that nothing as big as the introduction of BlackBerry or iOS or Android will ever wow us again. Now, we all know that the problem isn't that there is no innovation left in the industry - of course there is. But I think the bigger issue is that we are looking at these same companies who have already managed to impress us, and we expect them to keep pumping fantastic ideas out. But even the most innovative companies need a break every once in a while.

A lot of innovation I'm seeing come from the industry lately are coming from start-up companies. These companies are depending on a new method of support, called Crowdsourcing, to kick off their campaigns and hopefully bring their product to you. Most recently, we have seen this method used from Canonical to try and get their Ubuntu smartphone off the ground. Other smart products, like Pebble's smartwatch, also started off this same way before making it "big" and eventually having their smartwatch sold in Best Buy locations. Pebble showed us that Crowdsource campaigns aren't always a bust.

In my search today for something to write about, I was fortunate to stumble upon a campaign that definitely sparked my interest, and it's called Phonebloks.

Phonebloks' concept is interesting to me for two reasons: With the phone you would help keep the environment clean, and on the other hand you would finally be getting that phone that you always dreamed of having, mostly designed by you. In a sense, it's a dream phone - performance-wise.

What Phoneblok does is it takes a base plate, which is placed in the middle, and serves as a connector between your screen and the hardware components that make up the phone: processor, battery, camera, Wi-Fi, radios, etc. Your screen and the components are made up of detachable "blocks" - the screen itself is one giant block, and on the back you have various blocks that make up your phone the way you want to make it. For example, say you want more battery life than anything else in your phone. Instead of a standard battery that takes up only four blocks, you could exchange the four-block battery out for a six-block battery and remove a component that takes up two blocks that you consider unimportant, like storage. Or perhaps you're more of a storage buff and don't care so much about having an external speaker. You can take the speaker out and replace it with a larger storage block. And if your screen breaks? That's okay, just pull your screen off of the base board and replace it with a new one. Or, perhaps you just want a screen with a higher resolution - it's the same deal. I mean really, this concept is just you making the phone all about what you want in a phone, and reducing waste. That's it.

The campaign video makes it a point for you to know that electronic waste is one of the fastest-growing waste problems that we have in the world - which isn't hard to believe, looking back at how vastly technology has changed in all forms. And where do all of those old computers and phones go? Exactly where you think it would end up: in a big ol' pile somewhere where it shouldn't be. Although we are getting better at recycling these old parts and putting them to better use, it doesn't help that we continuously have more technology pumped out and therefore keep contributing to the growing problem of electronic waste. One little issue pops up that makes something stop "working" correctly, and a lot of people throw them out somewhere because they assume nobody wants it anymore. But with a design like Phonebloks', it would hopefully minimalize this whole misunderstanding that when a device stops working, it's because the entire device is no good anymore. In a sense, it simplifies technology for us. If something stopped working, you take out the block and replace it. It's really a rather brilliant concept.

But of course, that's the problem at this point is that it's only a concept. To me, it sounds like a pretty awesome concept - a concept that I could becoming something great in the future, and something I could see myself using. If it's customizable and helps the environment, then that's just killing two birds with one stone in my opinion. But what about you, readers? Do you think you could see yourself using a device like Phonebloks? What would your Phonebloks phone be like - bigger batter, more storage, better camera? Share with us your thoughts on this intriguing concept in the comments below!

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