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Make the modular phone into a reality

The idea of the modular cell-phone is not a new one. However I think its time for major effort and energy to be put into making this idea into a reality.

Photo of Alexis Cooke
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Cell phones are something that all of us consume. People are constantly looking for the next coolest/fastest/most exclusive cell-phone, and with 2-year cell phone contracts most people are used to tossing their old phones every couple of years. While the cell-phones of today would hardly be recognized by their ancestors components of phones aren't all that different. Case, screen, battery these are all things that can be made better and in a more modular way. 
A new system would still allow people to get the best and fastest devices this could be done with software and hardware upgrades rather than completely replacing the unit. 
In this way people in factories wouldn't loose jobs because modular parts still need to be made, you would need people to be able to do these hardware and software upgrades for consumers which could also add more jobs and companies could be incentivized to turn old parts into new parts or at least make components replaceable and removable. 
You could recycle old parts two fold 1) Directly to manufactures to make new products 2) Into completely new products for lower income people/countries. So instead of shipping an old CPU that has no use to East Africa we can send parts that can actually be used to make something and don't require the hazardous work currently required to tare down electronics. 

*note this focuses on cell-phones because they have become so common recently and are only going to get more so globally and I thought it would be easier to start with one thing rather that can then be translated to other products.  
video and photos are not mine 

How does your concept safeguard human health and protect our environment?

The process of tareing down current electronic products is hazardous. Separating metals and physically removing parts today creates pollution harmful to the earth and people, along with occupational injuries etc. A more modular system gets away from this hazardous production, and potentially could create jobs which has a direct impact on human health.

Where does your concept fit into the lifecycle of electronic devices?

I don't think manufactures are going to be inspired to make products that last longer since that may decrease their profits, but I think this encourages manufactures to design products that can be used in new and different ways. I think it encourages people to think about upgrading or repairing products rather than simply replacing them. We do this with so many other products cars, kitchen appliances, home repairs etc the idea of upgrades and repairs should definitely apply to something as ubiquitous as cell phones. Giving people more of an active role in the making of their products will hopefully make everyone more aware of consumption and where products come from and go to when we are done with them.

What steps could be taken today to start implementing your concept?

I think a first step would be to create a challenge to have people develop a modular phone if a manufacturer life Motorola or Apple backed it, it would have a huge impact

What kinds of resources will be needed to fully implement and scale your concept?

-Partnerships between manufactures -Partnerships between manufactures and recyclers -Partnerships between manufactures and government(s)

My Virtual Team

I built off a bunch of ideas from others in the OpenIDEO community (see below in the building on). The issue of ewaste to me seems to be a confluence of consumption and production and the ideas/concepts of people helped to clarify some of these ideas.


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