That Last Phone You’ll Ever Buy

That’s what the Phoneblok hopes to be:

Ben Richmond is intrigued:

One reason iPhones are rendered steadily and predictably obsolete just months after it debuts heralded as world-changing—is tied intimately to what many like about the iPhone: the attractive and smooth design. Apple’s seamless aesthetic doesn’t leave room for you to customize or upgrade the hardware and once the hardware is worn out, dropped into water or at its limit. When one part goes or is faulty or just doesn’t do what you want it to, the whole phone has to go. How many iPhones have been replaced just for want of an uncracked screen?

Apple is easy to point to, because it’s popular, and if you believe the lawsuits, where Apple goes, so do consumer electronics. But in at least one respect it’s far from unique. As last year’s Apples go to the dump, so too do other electronics. In 2010 the United States generated an estimated 3 million tons of e-waste, and only about a quarter of that is thought to be recycled. The rest is going to the dump or incinerators. Cell phones, while small, are a special problem because they are replaced on average every 12 months.

Brian Heater thinks that “this seems like one of those ideas that’s just too good to be true.” K. T. Bradford points out that Phonebloks isn’t close to coming to market:

Right now, Phonebloks is still in the concept stage. So concept-y that the inventor isn’t even asking for money yet, just attention. He’s gathering people for a crowdspeaking campaign (like a small version of Kony 2012) that will send out a huge burst of social media noise about the phone all at once to prove there is great interest. The thunderclap is scheduled to happen on October 29. The website and YouTube video aren’t too clear on the next steps. Will they try a Kickstarter campaign? Raise venture capitalist money? Bring the idea to an existing manufacturer? Maybe all of the above.

Todd Wasserman wonders how this phone would change the smartphone industry :

While the idea of cutting down on cell phone waste is appealing, such a design would greatly limit design possibilities. The industry also thrives on an upgrade cycle which this design would negate.