Dezeen and MINI World Tour: in our second movie from Eindhoven, Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Dave Hakkens explains his concept for a modular mobile phone made of detachable blocks, an idea that looks set to become a reality now he has teamed up with Motorola.

Phonebloks by Dave Hakkens

Phonebloks is a concept for a mobile phone made of swappable components that fit together like blocks of Lego.

"It is basically made to be upgraded and repaired," explains Hakkens, who was speaking at the Design Academy Eindhoven graduation show during Dutch Design Week last week, before his collaboration with Motorola was revealed.

"Usually we throw [a mobile phone] away after a couple of years, but this one is made to last."

Phonebloks by Dave Hakkens

He continues: "You throw away a lot of good components [when you throw away a phone], because usually it's only one item that is broken. With this phone you can only throw away components that are actually broken, or need repairing or upgrading."

"If it's getting slow you only upgrade the speed component, if you need a better camera you only upgrade the camera component. In this way you can keep the good stuff and the bad stuff you upgrade."

Phonebloks by Dave Hakkens

The video of the concept Hakkens posted on YouTube quickly went viral, attracting over 16 million views.

"I'm just one guy at the Design Academy, I can't make this phone myself," says Hakkens. "So I put this video online and in the first 24 hours I had one million views on YouTube. I got a lot of nice emails from companies and people who want to work on this."

Phonebloks by Dave Hakkens

Hakkens also put the project on Thunderclap, a crowdspeaking site where supporters donate their social reach rather than money.

His Phonebloks Thunderclap campaign closed yesterday, having gained 979,280 supporters. On closing, an automatic message about Phonebloks was sent out to all of his supporters' social media contacts, reaching over 380 million people.

Phonebloks by Dave Hakkens

The approach has been successful in getting the attention of major players in the mobile phone industry.

Yesterday he posted a new video on his Phonebloks website, announcing that he has teamed up with American communications giant Motorola, which has been working on its own modular mobile phone concept called Project Ara for the last year.

"The whole point was to generate a lot of buzz," says Hakkens. "So companies see that there's a huge market and they need to make a phone like this."

Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Dave Hakkens
Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Dave Hakkens

We drove around Eindhoven in our MINI Cooper S Paceman. The music in the movie is a track called Family Music by Eindhoven-based hip hop producer Y'Skid.

You can listen to more music by Y'Skid on Dezeen Music Project and watch more of our Dezeen and MINI World Tour movies here.

Dezeen and MINI World Tour: Eindhoven
Our MINI Paceman in Eindhoven
  • Drai D

    Please don’t lose the original design to Motorola! The Ara is way less customisable and doesn’t support other companies like the original Phonebloks video does. Stick to your genius!

    • Wim Brouwers

      Indeed. Keep the original disign, it’s way more cutomisable but it also has way more style. Motorola is ‘trying’ to make it modern by giving it a “cool” design, but your original design is classy. It makes me think of the Lego blocks, which were a huge part of my youth and that’s what makes phoneblock so amazing. It’s a “green” idea, but it is also technologically smart and it’s personal.

    • Abdallah Arar

      The original design is technologically impossible, the Motorola one is much more realistic.

      • Marcus

        How so, I’m pretty sure that it can be done, which aspect is “impossible”, maybe not for the exact same look but it definitely seems plausible.

  • Sahil Nair

    Let me get one ASAP!

  • Brad Loomis

    I have the original design patent pending on this. I’m working with both of them as much as possible to keep this on the right track!

  • M.S.

    How on earth is this getting so much traction? There are modular phone concepts at LEAST perennially, and some are closer to realisation than this one.

    I’m rooting for the idea of modular phones as much as anyone, but I’m surprised Dezeen has given page space to a completely unrealised concept that can be found in hundreds of student portfolios over the years.

    • theVolt

      For the clicks! Good video though.

  • Axel Vermeij

    It might seem nice to have different forms of the basic phone so that each block is different and they do not all look alike ;)

  • y

    Personally, I do want to “FIX” the components that are broken.

  • Joshua Young

    This is an interesting concept, but the creator is really applying it to the wrong field. I know some people go through phones like candy, but I would say the average user only needs to replace his/her phone every 1-2 years. By that time, everything has changed.

    What was brand new technology 2 years ago, you’re now lucky to sell on eBay for $40. And if this upgrade was for one piece of the phone, or even several, I would say that this idea could still apply. But it’s pretty much across the board. Batteries wear out, cameras get updated, screens get updated, processors, antennas etc. Marketing to irresponsible (accident prone) users seems like an okay way to go. Even then I get the sense that people of that disposition are not responsible enough to buy insurance plans, let alone buy a phone that IS essentially an insurance plan. I don’t know.

    • Alexander Napa

      I think you missed the point completely… that technology gadget true cost ought to have been $40 in the first place, the rest is marketing spin.

      If Dave stays true to his intent it will be interesting what the outcome will be, may even work out as a attractive option for consumers; tech companies don’t have monopoly on good ideas nor do they do ‘true cost’ campaigns. It’s about maintaining market position, shareholders dividends, quarterly targets, paying off the R&D cost to bring new tech gadget to market yada yada.

      At 380 million interest pool tho that’s a whole lot of mojo in anyones language. Hard to ignore:-)

      • Joshua Young

        “It is basically made to be upgraded and repaired.” Not sure where you’re getting your information but it’s obviously not from this article. I commend you if you did more research on the subject, but it seems to me even then it’s a long shot. You have to know that Motorola isn’t going to give you parts at cost. It’s going to be just as expensive as a normal smartphone or more so because this can be their next big gimmick to “finally push ahead of the iPhone.” Put this phone in the hands of a slightly more ethical company like Google and I’d say you might have a shot at something.

  • Pooface

    This is kind of cool – However it has been ‘picked-up’ because the idea closely resembles the Windows 7 graphic interface. In reality all these functions are much more closely integrated physically within a phone to be able to be removed Lego brick style.