Modular Phone Innovation: Advantages and Disadvantages

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A modular phone is a smartphone comprising of different components of a cellphone interfaced together on a common primary board. These parts are independent in that they can be partially upgraded without necessarily affecting the whole phone. This type of innovation promises smartphone users tremendous benefits such as high-end value at a cheaper cost, reduced repair costs, and increased user comfort. Further, the phones will facilitate the elimination of electronic wastage due to the separate durable parts. However, apart from these benefits, modular phone innovation is a new phenomenon, and it faces several challenges from development stages to implementation. In this paper, some of these benefits and drawbacks have been explored.

The market for smartphones has grown tremendously and is expected to increase even further in the future. The revolution in the smartphone industry has also influenced the consumers' demands in the market. Currently, consumers demand phones with more advanced and computing capabilities and high connectivity. The modular phone technology is an innovation that is similar to desktop available in the market. The technology revolution allows consumers to swap different components of a phone. These components making up a smartphone can be independently upgraded or replaced with other parts in a modular design.

Several companies have established several projects to manufacture smartphones with swappable hardware parts. For instance, Google Inc. came up with Project Ara, with a smart endoskeleton frame for a modular phone (Dai & Daim, 2018). The phone was to allow users to customise it with an extra battery, camera, and other functional and independent components (Vossoughi et al., 2015). The LG Company launched its G5 flagship, where a detachable chin can connect with other accessories. Further, Lenovo’s trio of Motorola Moto Z phones constituted magnetic modules for attachable speakers and image projectors. The primary aim of producing modular smartphones is to eradicate electronic waste, minimise the repair costs, and enhance user comfort. The significance of a modular smartphone is based on the potentiality to extend the lifespan of a phone and reduce the electronic surplus. However, it is taking time for companies such as Google Inc., LG, Lenovo, and others to bring more devices into the market. The big question is; what hinders the development of modular phones? How is modular phone innovation going to affect the quality of smartphones?


          The primary idea behind modular smartphones innovation is that consumers can have an opportunity to customise their devices according to their own needs. The functionality of these phones is that the components such as camera, GPS, storage, Wi-Fi, and more will possess specific functions. Then the parts will be integrated with the main board of a phone. The phone will function based on the components attached to it. These modules are packaged in a manner they can be replaced efficiently without having to rework the soldering of the main board. Phonebloks was the first device with modular design technology, and it received excellent reception.

Advantages of Modular Phones

          The consumers always prefer having a chance to personalise their products to meet specific needs. With the emergence of modular technology in the smartphone industry, users will be able to customise and configure their phones’ hardware in a way convenient to meet their desires. One thing which users require often is a chance for self-expression (Cătălin & Andreea, 2014). The modular phones have varying design approaches that are unique with personality. Further, the modular technology offers users an added functionality at a cheaper cost compared with purchasing an entirely new smartphone. The expertise required to repair or interchange the phone’s modules very minimal because no screws are involved in combining these modules; instead, electronic-permanent magnets are used in modularity packaging.

          Purchasing a modular phone allows continuous partial upgrades. A typical smartphone has its components wired in one housing. In modular smartphones, all the modules require each part to be housed along with interface elements. Parts used in a modular smartphone can be sourced from different manufacturers. This is a golden opportunity for third-party manufacturers to produce complete innovative modules. Often consumers want something new, with the development of a more vibrant content. For instance, older phones have cameras with low resolutions, have low storage capacities, and low processing powers. The modular technology will allow a combination of high-performance modules which are capable of handling latest improvements in features such as gaming, video, and virtual reality.

Disadvantages of Modular Phone

          Though modular phones allow swapping of components on and off the phone, the mechanical and technical complexity involved is enormous. All the modules combined in a smartphone module phone requires standardisation to ease the process of communication with one another. The modules used in these phones need to be durable to ensure a modular phone will not be disoriented when it falls. Some critics on modular devices argue that there is a possibility of loss of control of the entire phone. Even though modular phone technology allows users to build their own devices, there is very little value that an average user can gain. The other issue is that the availability of many devices on the market is that consumers will be overwhelmed with too many choices.

          Google Inc.’s Project Ara faced a lot of challenges during its creation and implementation which resulted in the cancellation of the project. Even though the whole concept of creating modules seems simple, a few people are willing to develop these modules. The initial rollout of Ara was delayed, causing strapping of some planned features that appeared to be complicated in execution. Further, there is a possibility of the modular phone slowing down the communication process due to the separation of components. The cancellation of Project Ara also highlights the potential issues that the other companies which engage in modular technology might be facing. The primary challenge behind the modular phone is the standardisation across module producers. Currently, the phones seem to be expensive making many consumers to opt for the ordinary smartphones.


          Modular technology is an innovation that promises a lot of benefits in the society. People will have devices which can be customised to meet their specific needs. The modules in these smartphones are upgradable independently hence creating convenience. Further, there is the eradication of electronic waste due to repair. However, the technology is facing a lot of challenges in its implementation phase. This is because modules are produced with different standards, which makes the harmonisation of the components difficult.


          Due to the potential convenience that is embedded in modular technology, there is need to further the understanding of how standardisation of modules can be achieved to make communication process efficient. Moreover, the means of powering the modules should be reliable because power management in devices will have to adapt to new algorithms and tactics in the added modules.


Cătălin, M. C., & Andreea, P. (2014). Brands as a mean of consumer self-expression and desired personal lifestyle. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 109, 103-107.

Dai, X., & Daim, T. U. (2018). Technology Roadmap: Google’s Eco-friendly Mobile Phones. In Infrastructure and Technology Management (pp. 415-436). Springer, Cham.

Vossoughi, S., Knaub, D. R., Sayler, D., Ballerstedt, F., & Crisp, T. (2015). U.S. Patent No. 9,118,750. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

September 11, 2023




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