The average lifespan of your mobile phone is 18 months. You discard of your phone because the battery is not working properly. Or because the software cannot be supported by the phone’s CPU. Perhaps you don’t like the design or just want a better camera. The complete phone ends up as e-waste and all the precious metals are going to waste. Even worse, your phone might end up in Africa where small children are put to work to take out those precious metals with their small fingers. The design of the mobile phone and other electronics needs to change to adopt the principles of the cradle to cradle concept: design for reuse. And product designers are taking up the challenge.
Modular phone designs are picking up traction
The modular phone is becoming reality as designers are becoming more and more conscious about product sustainability. Recently, Dutch designer Dave Hakkens received a lot of attention with his phonebloks concept design. However, he has not been the first to adopt the mobile phone design to the cradle to cradle philosophy. Early this year the smarterphone was introduced by students attending Elisava School’s Master of Product Design program in Barcelona. Late 2011, Julius Tarng introduced the Modai concept. His idea is to expand the lifespan of your phone not only by introducing modularity, but also by making you feel more attached – a trusted bond.
Will Google and Microsoft disrupt the industry with modular phones?
Surely all big phone manufacturers have built their concepts, made designs and probably are testing prototypes as we speak. But what is going to be the business model? How are they going to entice us to keep spending the same or more money on our mobile phones? And who is going to be the first on the market? Looking at the patents, Microsoft filed for a modular smartphone concept and Google bought Modu’s modular smartphone patents in 2011. The recent acquisition of Nokia by Microsoft and Google’s earlier Motorola Mobility takeover may be preludes for an industry disruption to come. Let it be sustainable mobile phone designs.