Finally, adults don’t have to relinquish the joy of playing with blocks! Most of the fun in Legos lies with the customizable nature of the toy and the ability to stray from the image on the box to create something truly unique. Dutch designer Dave Hakkens channeled this childhood pastime into a new kind of functional and distinctive smartphone design called PhoneBloks that defies the “one size fits all” stereotype that can often be seen in mass-produced electronics.
This phone is purchased by the part. Once users buy the base, they are free to complete the phone however they’d like by clicking additional parts (bloks) into the frame. For example, if someone loves taking photos on their device, they may choose a higher quality camera to click into the phone. If a consumer prefers a digital camera that is separate from their phone, they are able to fill that space with something like extra memory or better speakers. If a part breaks, like the screen for example, PhoneBloks users can simply replace the broken component, instead of getting a whole new device.
The patchwork phone idea allows for much more than just creativity or customizability, although that is a sizable selling point. Hakkens cites the growing problem of global electronic waste, or e-waste, as the main inspiration for the creation of PhoneBloks. According to the environmental group Greenpeace, e-waste reaches a staggering 20 to 50 million tons per year. What accounts for these huge numbers? Excessive e-waste is largely due to the disposable nature of electronics. Phones and other devices are largely seen as status symbols that need to be changed and upgraded to keep up with the rest of society. They can reflect financial status and interests, as well as an individual’s personality. For this reason, when electronics, phones in this case, are even slightly outdated, they are cast aside for a newer, faster, and better model.
The idea of an immortal phone seems a lot more logical and cost-effective than the traditional upgrade system most people use today, but, unfortunately, it still faces a few roadblocks. The design is a bit too bulky and blocky-looking to compete with the sleeker smartphones that are successful in the market today. Also, battery life as well as compatible components might prove to be issues that rival bad aesthetics. Overall, PhoneBloks seems to be one of those cool-sounding ideas that only works in theory, at least until the design flaws get smoothed out a bit.