ÜBERTECH | A ZDNet Multiplexer Blog What's this?

Building the Perfect Phone, Piecemeal

PhoneBloks was a concept for a modular phone that was Internet generating buzz. Turns out, Motorola has been working on the same thing for over a year.

Everyone has a different concept of an ideal phone: screen size, storage, camera, etc. But, we must gratify ourselves by choosing from among few predefined options.

PhoneBloks is a concept to create the Lego Watch of mobile phones: a modular system that you can customize from the get-go with the parts you want. As technology improves or your needs change, you can upgrade individual components without throwing out the whole thing for an entirely new model. You get exactly what you want. You generate less electronic waste. It's a great idea.


When I first noted PhoneBloks in my list of topics to cover in this blog, it was a fledgling idea that was gaining a lot of public attention. Since then, it has partnered with Motorola (now a Google company) to take the idea to the next level.

As part of the announcement, Motorola revealed that it has been working on a similar concept, Ara, for the last year. Read the official word on the Motorola press release.

There are problems with this open-hardware approach, nicely covered in this YouTube video by Marquis Brownlee. Basically, tightly integrated components give small devices big advantages: compact size, lower cost, and a better user experience.

Dave Hakken, the guy behind PhoneBloks, isn’t the first one to come up with the idea. Modu got as far as actually building a very similar concept before it closed down. Subsequently Google acquired a number of Modu's patents, and of course in turn Google acquired the Motorola mobile business. All very interesting.

As much as the concept appeals, in the reality of today’s technology and manufacturing, it seems like it’s not much more than a pipe dream at this stage. However, I'm not giving up on my idea of an add-on camera (link) is one that still greatly appeals.

(Interestingly, Hakken has come up with a number of other ingenious ideas, including BreakSoap, PlugBook, Wind-Oil, and DustBall.)


You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All