Phonebloks founder: we're not another Ubuntu Edge

Phonebloks founder explains why "modular smartphones" will take off

Shona Ghosh
27 Nov 2013

Phonebloks founder Dave Hakkens has batted away suggestions that his "modular smartphone" project won't see the light of day.

The idea behind Phonebloks is to create highly customisable phones, where users can replace individual components when they wear out or require an upgrade. Each component comes in the form of a "module" which can be slotted into the phone's body.

Hakkens is raising money via Kickstarter to bring the first phones and modules to fruition, and has already signed up Motorola as his first hardware partner.

But critics have drawn comparisons with Phonebloks and Canonical's ill-fated attempt to crowdfund the Ubuntu Edge smartphone, which fell short of its target by $20 million.

In an interview with PC Pro, Hakkens dismissed the comparison. He said that if he'd launched straight into a crowdfunding campaign, instead of working with partners and developers first, "it would have ended like Ubuntu".

"We have a lot of interest and people who want to work on it," he added. "We’re heading somewhere: I don’t think it will drop dead."

3D printed phones

Hakkens pointed to the partnership with Motorola as proof of momentum. He also praised Motorola's recent development agreement with 3D-printing firm 3D Systems to produce the first modules.

"It’s a nice direction to go in with this project because we’re all thinking [that it shouldn't be] huge-scale factories to produce, say, thousands of the same iPhones, but that it would be nice to have a technique to produce a couple of thousand blocks," he said. "We need to adapt the techniques we use to produce phones."

However, Hakkens couldn't say how much a device or individual modules might cost.

He added that Phonebloks and Motorola would release the first developers' kit later this year for anyone who wants to create modules.

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