The world's hottest new smartphone isn't even close to being on the market. In fact, it's not even being manufactured yet. But hundreds of thousands of consumers already say they want one.
With little more than a website and a YouTube video, Dutch designer
The idea is simple: enable consumers to replace individual components of their phone -- the screen, speakers, battery, storage, camera etc. -- while retaining the device's basic frame.
It's essentially a phone you assemble like Lego.
Hakkens argues in a Phonebloks promotional YouTube video, which has gone viral with more than 15 million views, that thinking about a smartphone as a series of replaceable components or modules would reduce electronic waste and lower costs.
"Every day, we throw away millions of electronic devices because they get old and become worn out," the video's narrator says. "But usually it's only one of the components that causes the problem. The rest of the device works fine, but is needlessly thrown away simply because electronic devices are not designed to last."
The video also claims that the Phonebloks concept would empower consumers, giving them the opportunity to customize their devices according to their own requirements by buying only the "blocs" they need:
"Let's say this is your phone and you do everything in the cloud, why not replace your storage blok for a bigger battery blok?" the video narration says. "If you're [a guy who likes] to take pictures, why not upgrade your camera? Or if you don't care about any of this stuff, you can keep it simple, and get bigger speaker."
To get the project off the ground, however, Hakkens will need to get investors, developers, and manufacturers on board.
To build support and buzz -- and to demonstrate that a potential market exists -- he is using the "crowd-speaking" platform "Thunderclap," which allows people to pledge support for causes on social media platforms like Twitter,
Thunderclap stockpiles these "tweets," "likes," and "recommends" and unleashes them simultaneously in one big blast for maximum impact.
So far, more than 800,000 people with a social media reach of over 300 million have pledged support for the Phoneblok project.
The platform is scheduled to unleash its barrage of tweets and likes on
"To show them there is an interest for this phone, we need your voice," the video narration says. "You can donate your social reach on the website. We gather as much people as possible. On
Analysts say the Phonebloks concept is sound, but add that overcoming the existing business model of smartphone manufacturers will be difficult.
In an email interview,
But whether such a concept would work will depend on things like "how it feels in the hand, how heavy it is [and] what happens when you drop it."
She added that gaining mobile operator distribution agreements will be a "critical."
Likewise, U.S. technology industry analyst
Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,
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