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Phonebloks Posts Status Update Video – Talks Motorola Collaboration, Community, and More

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After Motorola surprised the tech world a bit last night with the introduction of their new modular hardware smartphone concept called Project Ara, we were sort of wondering when we’d hear from Phonebloks. After all, Phonebloks was the first to put modular phone design on our radar, and Motorola name-dropped them in their announcement. Today, in a video press release, Phonebloks founder Dave Hakkens talks about his trip to meet Motorola, the sit downs with other companies, early goals for the Phonebloks community, and more. 

Thanks to the video, you’ll see a Motorola Ara prototype (non-working) in the clip to give you an idea of just how “bloks” can fit into a modular smartphone. Remember, the goal is to create an open hardware platform similar to an open software platform. And speaking of open, Motorola has said that it plans to develop this platform in the open, unlike normal products which are held behind closed doors until they are ready for the world. If anything, it should be a blast seeing how far Motorola can take the modular phone idea.

Actually, I really just want to see someone hot-swap a camera for taser. That would be brilliant.

For Hakkens, the goal is to create a massive Phonebloks community that can work with Motorola to help give the project a voice and ideas. They’ll remain independent in funding, but will work together throughout the early stages. Those early stages will feature a modular development kit for developers to get to work.

Come on, you have to be somewhat excited about this?


  • qwertyup

    My biggest question is if this is too late. Will people want this after the oled phones come out? will you still want a modular brick when you can get a paper thin wallet/phone with a tegra 4 chip in it that is also powerful enough to run every game?

  • qwertyup

    i definately think it will work. but i dont know if it will be the most cost effective way to get performance and dominate the market. considering most phones are subsidized by the 2 year contract you sign to stay with your cell phone service provider. i dont know how this phone will be sold in that market. At best all that will be subsidized by this phone will be the core and you will be paying a hundreds to make it a working phone at bare after for all the accessories. I dont know if it will beat performance for buck compared to the prebuilt phones. i know tmobile which is ditching the contract deal may take advantage of this phone but the problem is all the companies that has good signal service everywhere is done by contract. how will they sell this phone. Maybe when your two years are up they will give you a discount on all the parts or say they will pay for 400 or dollors of the parts or so and the rest you have to buy. idk we will have to see. Hopefully it works.

  • Award Chairman

    Nominee for dumbest idea of 2013.

    • guest

      eat your words when it becomes reality ..Im part of phoneblocks community they already have a working prototype ..its pre alpha but sure you can/add remove certain modules on it already ..

  • guest

    droid life team ..im surprised that you guys missed out on reporting the new Motorola spotlight app and the interactive content that It can play ..first one of those movie is windy day ..I got it on my phone today and its awesome ..you should do a post about it and its new and innovative in smartphone world ..

  • Tyler

    The only problems i see with this are that having enough slots for stuff, weight distribution and form factor. Not every part of a phone weighs the same and generally speaking phones are relatively balanced from a weight perspective (especially from side to side) and having a battery on one side and a radio/sd card slot/camera on the other is going to create an imbalance due to the battery being heavier. Plus how would you have larger batteries and smaller batteries if it takes up one slot you cant just have an awkward extra thick square. And for form factor one of the reason why I’m going to get a Moto X was because of the way it feels with the curved back. If you have a bunch of slots how are you going to make it a curved back without wasting space?

    Also getting carrier support is going to be problematic. Carriers rely on you buying a new phone every 2 years and locking you into a contract. I’m assuming making a phone like this isn’t going to be cheap so for it to go mainstream someone is going to have to markdown the price(like carriers do with contract pricing) to get people interested. Who is going to buy a phone for $500 when a phone for $200 does the exact same thing just isn’t modular.

    I really want this to work. This is where i think the future of smartphones lies. I just don’t see it being a huge success besides with tech enthusiasts. I hope I’m wrong.

  • wmsco1

    How about a kit kat block! 4.4 ah hum no more waiting for updates. Lol!

  • psuturtle

    Am I the only one noticing a massive design difference between the “phoneblocks” lego-like design, and the Moto design? At a high level, the two are similar since they are both very modular….but when you look at implementation, the two are very distinctly different. I still say phoneblock’s breadboard concept has little chance of seeing the light of day. Moto’s concept might simplify things enough to remove at least some of the engineering challenges and get to a working prototype.

  • scotch1337

    Why not modular laptops then??

    • qwertyup

      there is such a thing have u never heard of sager laptops?

      • scotch1337

        I have they aren’t module. At best some laptops have graphics cards that can be replaced, but are EXTREMELY limited. I mean laptops as modulare as these phones intend.

  • fir3ball

    So if I make a fancy video, tell the world about my concept, then someone who is actually doing that will support me? it’s very contrary to modern business which is refreshing, but I feel phonebloks isn’t bringing anything to the table, other than a community, a smaller community than if Google + Moto said they were making this last month….

    • psuturtle

      moto is out in front at this point in terms of development. The other guy is along for the ride.

  • I think modular phones is an amazing step forward in mobile technology. Reminds me of a desktop computer, where almost nothing is integrated into the MoBo. However, I feel like the phone would have to be HUGE. Integrated peripherals can be these teeny tiny parts but a modular wifi “block” would have to be lego-sized, at least. But upgrading things like cameras, screens, and speakers WOULD be extremely useful! But I think those standard things like WiFi, BT, and some of the other radios should be integrated or something. I would hate to upgrade a speaker or camera or something and end up having to take out Bluetooth or LTE. So it will interesting to see how Moto tackles it.

  • Random Thoughts

    I’m hoping T-Mobile will be in my area by the time this is a reality. T-Mobile and Sprint are the only two carriers I see pushing these phones (in today’s market anyway).

    This concept goes completely against Verizons business model, who relies completely on their network strength, which works now but will probably end as the others bring their networks closer to Verizons levels.

    The phone carriers continue to play leap frog with each other. When one becomes top (based on customer base) they feel they can screw their customers over more and more until everyone leaves… then someone else takes over. I remember Sprint being on top, then it was Cingular (I think the AT&T name change went to their head), today it’s Verizon and I’m predicting tomorrow it’s T-Mobile.

    But once this technology takes off to reality, it’ll be nice and the carriers will have to find new ways to screw their customers than using inflated subsidizations.

    • AbbyZFresh

      Even better is when Fiber takes off in a couple years. Every carrier in America will be out of the picture.

  • carluverdrm2004


  • Ryan C

    Oh, so now Motorola vows to listen..? so does that mean they’re gonna unlock the bootloader when everyone asks for it?

    • Selling an Developer Edition of a locked phone for retail value makes them more money. Too bad Moto is still losing money. They’d make so much more if they went back to aiming at the HUGE section of the market who just want their regular versions unlocked from the start. But hey, ya gotta give them SOME credit for bringing 4.1 to the Droid Bubonic…..they listened there.

      • John Friend

        I LOLed at Droid Bubonic. At first I thought it was autocorrect. HAHAAHAHAHAHAHA Ya that phone did plague people with problems didnt it!

        • me included. I literally bought one of the very first ones the minute my local store opened on the day they released the phone. a week later I heard about the Droid RAZR and the MAXX and went APE. I jacked my sisters upgrade about a year later and got the MAXX HD and gave her my Bubonic. She doesn’t really like it lol. But I gave it to her for free so she deals with it. Plus I keep unlimited data. Win Win.

  • intellergent one

    That ideer is dum, d-u-m dum.

  • Frettfreak

    I need some new undies. The thought of this is pretty awesome! And with googarola pushing this too, we KNOW it will be running our favorite OS!

    Open Source OS + Modular and open harware platform = open wallet

  • Benjamin Mackie

    Can guarantee one thing about this, this wont come to verizon, or at least until a year after every other carrier in the world has it

    • noc007

      IIRC, supposedly VZW would just need to certify the radio. Maybe that was for just data devices. I could be totally wrong and am too lazy to find the article I read.

  • Sporttster

    Lego phones? No tanx….

  • guest

    droid life team ..when is the next mobile show? want to see you guys talk about this 🙂

  • Colton

    imagine this: what if you could switch out the camera blok for a bigger camera blok.
    Example: switch from the galaxy s4 camera to the galaxy zoom in terms of camera power.

  • Colton

    I’ll take a physical keyboard, no screen, and….4 cameras.
    Because i can!

    On a serious note, imagine the possibilities! That sounds so cliche, but really..imagine them..

  • interstellarmind

    I think first Tablets and smartphones and laptops will converge. After that “game change” I think this’ll be the next big thing.

    • jmsbwmn

      Don’t forget the toaster. The only thing people like more than gadgets… is toast.

  • Swoops212

    Starting a petition to ban the cock blok

  • Maxim∑

    Little bit skeptical but we will see!

  • CivilDroid

    probably will never make it to Verizon anyway….

    • MikeKorby

      We will, but one of your blocks will have to be taken up by the Verizon logo block, and if you have the Verizon logo block, then you will be unable to receive proper updates.

      • NathanDomier

        That’s actually quite plausible. Verizon would just make a closed source radio block for their network that you have to use, and then not update the drivers for it…

        • MikeKorby

          Admittedly, after I had posted my comment (which was intended for humor purposes only), I realized that it could very easily be the block for radios. Thanks future Verizon.

      • TheRobotCow

        Don’t forget that the remaining block will be used for Verizon apps!

        • Justin Swanson

          That’s an additional block.

  • guest

    Moto should have some working prototype of it to come out open and announce they will be release a modular development kits soon …this is really happening ..thats awesomee!!!

  • tuname1t

    It’s the Moto G that everyone discounted a little earlier

  • It seems like a good idea, but it obviously needs a hell of a lot more R&D before we see it in the real world.

  • PikTik

    Where’s the slide out keyboard blok?

    • SparkysShocker

      I joined the Ara research scouts and this is one of my wants I am listing.

      • RoninX

        Me too. High-end phablet with a full-qwerty keyboard — make it happen!

        • El_Big_CHRIS

          why not just carry a netbook then? 😛

          • Porteg

            I’d actually rather get this: http://www.oled-info.com/files/images/OQO_Model_2_Plus_OLED-img_assist-300×210.jpg

            With an Intel Bay Trail Atom dual booting Windows 8 and OpenSUSE.

          • RoninX

            If it ran Android, had LTE, and could make phone calls, I’d be interested…

          • RoninX

            Have you ever used a netbook?

            “High-performance” is not a phrase I would use to describe them.

          • El_Big_CHRIS

            haha yeah they’re terrible. Of course, I was kidding

      • Justin W

        Ooohhh, this reminds me I need to do my first mission. Thanks 🙂

  • RoadsterHD1

    BETA for sure.

  • jeff manning

    progress with OLED technology will be huge for this

  • Jason

    Is this going to be the new Moto X, where the MotoMaker really comes into effect?

  • Prodstick

    Show me a working prototype

    • dizel123

      Yes, because working prototypes are usually developed before the concept, so they should already be on the 4th or 5th revision…smdh

      • Glad someone gets it. Sick and tired of the pessimism towards this concept. “It will never work!” “Show me a working prototype!”

        Show support and be patient, bastards.

        • Prodstick

          Why should we inherently support this product?

          • Because it’s an awesome idea, that’s why. The fact that you have to ask proves that you don’t get it though, so go enjoy your blissful ignorance.

          • Prodstick

            “You just don’t get it! Whaa!” Modern phones can’t be made small, powerful and power-efficient enough at the same time as a single integrated device. There is nothing to convince me that a non-integrated set of components is going to somehow compete with an integrated device. This is a pipe dream.

          • And what makes you the expert on the efficiencies of integrated and non-integrated mobile computing systems?

            Don’t you think that because one company is manufacturing all the parts, that they will work just as well together as would a single integrated device? Granted, it may take more time to implement and test.

  • Jason

    If we can get a Nexus experience to look like this then I will be very happy.

    • SparkysShocker

      It would have to be a AOSP rom to work with this because of how dependent OEM skins are on the hardware they run on.

      • Jason

        By Nexus, I meant the whole experience:
        The price,
        The Stock,
        The unlockable bootloader,

        • hoosiercub88

          If it’s Motorola.. I wouldn’t count on that last one..

          I’m sure it’d be something very similar to the software we’re seeing on the MotoX/DROID line of phones these days, very close to stock with some added functionality.

          • Joseph Barrientos

            considering google BOUGHT moto, theres a chance

  • z

    yay this is quite cool 🙂

  • morgan boyle

    this is going to be a phone that never hits American shores BUUUT it will be great for countries that have lower income and it makes more sense to upgrade a chip or sensor vs buying a whole new phone. i see this a being big in Africa.

    • PhillipCun

      Because you said so? What’s your reason? Source? Moto X is avail in the US and not available overseas. Motorola is an AMERICAN company owned by Google, another AMERICAN company. ‘MURCA

      If I had to put money on a country it will be available to, I would put my money on America.

    • morgan boyle

      i should say US carriers wont want it because you will own a phone and not need them to cover the upgrade costs. maybe t-mobile though.

      • z

        I’m assuming this is going to be something like nexus.. where u dont buy it on contract through a carrier.

      • Frettfreak

        Really, if the phone and blocks are sold like say the nexus, then carriers have no choice. Carriers would have to not allow customers to bring owned phones to the carrier. Which i dont see happening. If the radio blok for the phone is available with your carriers bands then in theory you should be able to use it.

  • I like how all of you clowns laughed at the idea and mocked it early on. Must feel good for Phonebloks guy.

    • Matt Upton

      I still believe it won’t work. But really awesome if it does!

      • superg05

        the company that made the first mobile phone and has been working on it for a year can’t get it to work [email protected]

    • Fervid Vervet

      On this occasion, I’m happy to admit that that I was this guy:

      • …probably the most appropriate and applicable image I’ve seen posted in disqus in a LONG time. Well done…I literally LOLed 🙂

      • Tom Edwards

        LMAO!! I agree this is me as well at times. Thanks for the great laugh today!!

    • Ian

      ALL of us are clowns?

    • j

      Yea a non working prototype really shuts people up.. not. Still not practical with today’s technology matched against customer expectations.

      • nice use of not Borat. Am I going to listen to the cynical internet blog comment leaver or the company that says they are working on a prototype, has the backing of a billion dollar multinational company, and has been manufacturing and designing in this industry for decades?

    • Menger40

      I hear you, but there’s a difference. Phoneblok guy’s concept renders showed components having 4-8 pins with random spacing that you can arrange any way you like on a grid. How do you lay out the underlying board when any component can have any one of its pins in any arbitrary position on your grid?

      This concept shows little 10-pin connectors, all the same size as each other, and limits on what types of pieces can fit where. IE, you get two big square slots, two little square slots, and four rectangle slots. You can’t just put any component anywhere you like.

      That alone makes this much more plausible. It also doesn’t hurt that MotoGoogle is behind it.

      • I don’t disagree with anything you just said. However, I still would submit that Phonebloks guy is feeling good.

        • Menger40

          Oh, he’s definitely having a good day.

  • Guest

    Cat with Sunglasses

  • El_Big_CHRIS

    I know we may not see this for a while (specially Verizon) but I’ve been ready for a while for something this awesome

  • T4rd

    (Truly) Amazing.

    • Menger40

      Way to steal Kleendroid’s thunder

      • T4rd

        I haven’t seen him posting lately, so I’m just covering down for him. 😉

  • Daniel

    I’m excited, might not be so hard to find a removable battery, microSD slot, and whatever other features you want if you can pick them. Though wouldn’t the first step be something more like the MotoX where you can just actually customize the internal components of your phone and then Motorola assembles that version for you and maybe move to awesome modular design later?

    • Frettfreak

      but htats not the point. phonebloks is about reducing waste and makeing a phone you want to keep not throw away. One that you just upgrade whatever you want so you will always have the phone thats suits your needs.

    • michael arazan

      This is the True Moto-Maker.

      Technology is reaching a ceiling with big batteries and HD screens and most parts of the phone don’t need to be replaced because there won’t be any advancement in certain areas, unlock cameras and processors.

      I wrote about this a year ago on how phone’s should have swappable parts to keep a phone and just pay a cheaper price to upgrade the hardware components so you don’t have to buy a whole new phone year after year especially now with hd screens and bigger batteries. Glad someone read my post in disqus and other forums I posted in.

  • evan brown

    I’m excited