Phonebloks – The Idea, The Reality, The Marketing
If you’ve been even casually watching your social media newsfeeds in the last week to ten days, you’ll have probably seen or noted a video for the new Phonebloks concept.
If not, Phonebloks is what’s known as a modular smartphone. Essentially, this means that the device uses a range of different bloks that can be replaced or upgraded piece by piece. Every component is separate and this allows users to unplug each particular from the mainboard and swap it with something new.
The idea is that, instead of completely throwing out or recycling a phone, you simply swap the part you don’t want anymore. This idealistic creation is claimed to counter the throwaway smartphone, reduce electronic waste and help the green cause. You’ll also never have to buy a new phone again; sounds like quite a cool concept but does the idea meet the reality?
The Idea and the Reality
Well, it’s such a simplistic idea you’d imagine someone else would have created it already – it’s a quite straightforward concept. In addition, taking the number of online views, the viral video and the fact the company has already reached its 750,000 supporter goal on Thunderclap into account; there seems to be plenty of interest too.
However, there are a number of practical issues – which we’re not saying are insurmountable but could cause concerns. Modern smart phones and their functions work in tandem and so developing apps and software for a device like this could be a bit of a challenge. As many know, many devices rise and fall depending on the level of developer interest and a smart phone that’s tough to develop for would do the same based on this issue.
Market trends also tend to go against the idea to some degree. Though the device has been a marvel on the viral web; all in one, completely enclosed devices are increasingly the trend. Think of the number of phones where you can change the battery – not too many nowadays and a lot more in the past. Size could also be a factor.
Modern smart phones are as efficient in component layout as they can possibly be. A Phoneblok concept with separate parts would require each part to have its own chip. Duplicate components have less efficient combinations of processors and chips and so may have to be larger. This once again goes against the trend of smaller, slimmer, lighter phones.
Also, physical issues such as constant changing of plug and play parts could eventually wear down connection points.
Finally, the big one is money. The video makes it all sound so simplistic. Users are told that to make a concept like this work they merely have to show interest in the campaign in a particular manner.
However, how likely is it for tech companies and phone companies to want to take on a concept that’s going to mean fewer devices sold and less money in their pockets? In essence, such a concept could be the Kony 2012 of our time. It begins with great gusto, but expect it to be forgotten by the weight of time and if needs be with the help of phone company’s marketing dollars.
Of course, there are other reasons that the Phonebloks concept is quite like Kony. The idea plays on both logic and also the human tendency to be good and be practical. It focuses on the problems of our time and even takes a slightly emotive take on the whole thing. There’s a definite feel good factor from the whole campaign and understandably so.
The eventual call for a worldwide tweet at a specific time also wonderfully utilises the notion of social. With Facebook, Google+ and Twitter offering hashtags and trending something that now has worldwide acclaim across a number of the social media networks, this push could pay significant dividends at a time when the idea could be quelling a little – something Kony2012 didn’t succeed at notably.
It’s a smart social media marketing move that could make and certainly won’t break Phonebloks. All we have to hope is that its Dutch creator won’t be caught naked at a town crossroads.
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