Modular smartphones: build your own device

Most smartphones are bought off the shelf – customers have near infinite control of the apps on them, but no say about the actual hardware.

Some manufacturers are trying to change that with modular smartphones, which would allow buyers to just take the parts of the phone they want, so they can create a unique device.

Google has already tested this path with Project Ara. Now a Finnish start-up, Circular Devices, is trying to take it one step further with its Puzzlephone.

Circular Devices’ twist is to work with an open platform, which would allow manufacturers to create their own modules, which customers could then combine into whatever form desired.

Not only does this provide freedom for the customers, but has the environmental advantage that a broken part could be replaced, instead of necessitating the purchase of an entirely new machine.

The Puzzlephone has three main elements. There’s the spine, which contains the display and has space for standard hardware like speakers, microphones, ports and power connections. The spine also has docks for the two other key components – the heart and the brain.

The heart includes the battery and the secondary electronics. The brain would be the processor, memory, camera and other hardware. The makers say these options would allow a variety of sizes and price classes.

The website reports that an operating system based on Android is in the works.

Unlike earlier attempts at modular phones, the Puzzlephone tries to get away with fewer components. Prototype tests are expected within weeks. The company says the first devices could be ready by the end of 2015.

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Modular smartphones: build your own device