Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Think Tank: Mobile phone industry and the greater good...

Well, today's post was inspired by several recent articles and the current mobile market/trends.  As we all know (at least us in the industry), the mobile market has recently exploded into quite an industry/market. 

We see new phones and technology nearly on a quarterly basis and designs, in a way, consolidating around a very familar/common form-factor.  Today, i'll rant and suggest to the industry something that could help not only the industry and consumers but also the planet and the greater good of preventing more and more digital trash.

Trash.  Electronic/technology trash has become a bigger and bigger issue each year as we further advance our technology and in turn replace our older technology.  Most people do not recycle their electronics or even consider it; most of it ends up like in the above image from; in the trash and in landfills or on barges.

I think the mobile phone industry has to change this pattern of waste/replacement/throwing out.  So lets just get to my idea: Modular mobile phone designs.

Sure, I know a few of you are saying that it never will work or its been tried and failed. However, I believe that the mobile industry itself has to start thinking of adopting such an idea. For example, this year alone I have purchased now 3 phones.  All of which are very similar in size, shape, design, and functionality but yet need to be fully replaced to get just a select few upgraded components and features (ie better camera, faster cpu, more memory).  Several of these phones were from the same manufacturer, ie HTC and in turn shared a similar components.

So how can a modular phone design help fix our trash and waste problems?

First, this idea would have to be adopted by all of the major phone manufacturers; including Apple and HTC and Samsung.  This would probably be the hardest part of my idea is getting all major phone makers to come together and agree on such an idea.

Second, standardization of components by such makers would have to be created.  The main thing would be a standardized mainboard size and connectors, a standardized form factor for cases, and other components.

Third,  consumer education of new mobile phones.  Basically one could build their own phone with the components that the manufacturers have standardized and finally install the appropriate OS for such phone.  The mainboard would determine which OS you wold install since it would meet the OS's requirements for memory, cpu, design.  So in theory I would be able to buy a phone housing, lcd/omeld screen, camera/phone module, mainboard with built-on cpu, radio, simcard.

Fourth, this needs to start happening now! The longer we wait the longer the system gets implemented and our trash problems will only increase as time goes on.  Its not only the waste we would eliminate but also the precious resources used in components could then easily be recycled.

So in theory its a great idea but of course most of us are wondering, won't this inhibit innovation?  Eliminate 'personal' part of your phone since we all would have same cases?  I say no it won't.  Just like we do now, manufacturers could in theory create a very wide range of cases/phone housings but the main thing would be to again keep a standardization of the case/housing like the PC industry has standardized case design w/the ATX and mATX form factors.  Look at pc cases, there are TONS of variety but yet they all still do the same thing and house the same components.  Also, instead of a touchscreen, a manfucturer could create a dialpad in a similar form factor to replace such screens; of course there would need to be software to let one use a keyboard but you see what i am getting at; make our own phone like I built my first desktop pc.  Its an evolution of the industry and one that must change in order for our planet to survive and resources.

What incentive do the phone makers have in adopting this standard/idea?  They do something most companies fail to even consider; doing some for the greater good of humankind.  Also it would help in production since all components and pieces would be standardized and interswappable with other phones of different manufacturers.  Will consumers buy into it?  I think the hackers and geeks would and eventually the mainstream would too.

Just a random thought of mine today that I thought I'd share just in case someone in the industry wants to finally give back to this planet and its people. :)  Have a great thanksgiving weekend and be safe!