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A socialist iPhone?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Yes, yes, yes, new iPhone, new IOS, new stuff, cheap, expensive, blah blah blah.

Nobody needs to tell you that your phone is obsolete about an hour and a half after you buy it, and nobody needs to tell you that your old phones either build up in our house (I can put my hands on two old phones without leaving my desk) or join in a surging tide of electronic crap either building up in the waste stream or being shipped to developing countries, where the poorly paid risk exposure to chemicals and other dangers to mine valuable metals from the mountain of junk.

These dudes at have figured out a way around that.

The idea is simple. Various manufacturers cooperate in a Lego-style model of phones built of separate blocks: a camera block, a memory block, a battery block, a screen block, all fitting into a basic grid base. You design your own phone — choosing your own components by Apple or Samsung or Nokia or Motorola or whomever. It’s assembled, and there you have it. New, faster chip comes out? You replace that, not the whole thing. If you want to.

Okay. I’ll just wait while you stop laughing. Didn’t get past “various manufacturers cooperate,” did you? Me neither. It’s a lovely idea — just like unbundled cable programming choices and the valuable and cheap automatic door locks without the unreliable and expensive automatic windows on your car. Or like cars that get the highest possible MPG.

I love this idea — but for it to work so many companies have to choose to make a reasonable profit delivering a good and long-lasting product according to the choices of their customers instead of an enormous profit delivering a good but short-lived produce according to their own models for profit maximization that it’s a borderline nonstarter.

I mean, share the video, yell as loud as you can, try to get manufacturers to start designing electronics that last longer than their packaging. I’m for it, and I’m with you.

But I can’t say I’m optimistic.


Scott Huler About the Author: A writer who commonly explores science, culture, and the relationship between the two. Follow on Twitter @huler.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. David Cummings 4:04 pm 09/17/2013

    It’s a good idea in theory (and for geeks a lot of fun) but I fear the introduction of interchangeability will be be more expensive than the rest of the phone combined.

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  2. 2. kingerman22 4:20 pm 09/17/2013

    my buddy’s sister-in-law makes $65 an hour on the laptop. She has been out of a job for nine months but last month her payment was $16716 just working on the laptop for a few hours. go to these guys……

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  3. 3. YangHui 7:37 pm 09/17/2013

    We’ve seen from empirical experience how the use of interchangeable parts dramatically improved both the quality and price of machinery. Phone blocks might be able to do the same thing, if it catches on. That said, it’s much more likely that one individual company introduces the idea, and then other companies are forced to either join in or use a competing model in order to keep up.

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