Phoneblok is radical vision of what tech could be

phoneblok component change picture
© Phoneblok

Dave Hakkens has a vision.

As critics have been quick to point out, Hakkens' vision may not be practical or even technologically feasible, but I think they are missing the most beautiful and inspirational piece of his idea, which is his radical vision for changing the world.

So what is it? It's called Phonebloks and as Derek Markham wrote yesterday, it is a "smartphone concept [that] snaps together like LEGO blocks."

That is an accurate description of the main object at the center of Hakkens' vision, but it leaves out the broader context Hakkens has also envisioned within which his redesigned smartphone would exist.

See, Hakkens hasn't just sketched out a new phone design. Rather he's proposed a radical new vision for what tech could be.

Watch his pitch video here:

Electronics repairability is something we talk about quite a bit here at TreeHugger, especially the system of "planned obsolescence" that currently exists. You know, how companies [cough, APPLE, cough] continue to reinvent their products each year with new designs or colors or features that make consumers want to buy the latest model when their current gadget is still functioning. This is what drives sales and stock growth, but it all adds up to a lot of manufactured consumer demand and far too much electronic waste.

Phonebloks aims to change that, by creating a modular system that would allow for easy repairs, upgrades and customization. Rather than every company making their own self-contained smartphones that are not easily repairable, Phonebloks would be based on a system of cooperation between companies, all designed to make the device user-friendly, long-lasting and better for the environment.

That idea, much more than the gadget itself, is what I think is most impressive about Hakkens' idea.

It's also remarkably popular, which should not be ignored.

The YouTube video about the project has more than 12 million views. And Hakkens has been using a social-networking tool called Thunderclap to rally supporters around this idea. With a month remaining in his campaign, he's already convinced nearly 650,000 people to participate. Those 650k people have a collective reach of 245,420,914 people via their social media networks and on October 29th, they will all speak out about their support for this idea.

After that? Well, no one knows what will happen.

As the critics have said, it is unrealistic that this will become an actual product any time soon. This is to be expected, since the entire idea of Phonebloks is a threat to the business model of major smartphone players.

But I see this less as a proposal for a specific gadget and more as a manifesto for a better future.

Phonebloks is resonating not because it has a slick design or it has proven itself as a workable concept. What people are responding to is this radical attack on the status quo. People may love their iPhones, but they also hate the way Apple seems to be forcing them to always buy something new.

New chargers? New plugs? New accessories? It's all too much.

That's why so many people are grabbing a hold of this idea and saying, "Yes, this!"

It's not about the phone. Pardon the language, but I see this more like another example of people saying, "shit is fucked up and bullshit."

And I'm of the mind that we need more of this.

The millennial generation faces an overwhelming number of ongoing crises. From environmental disaster to financial struggles and energy concerns to general angst about jobs and our future. It is a lot to deal with.

So when someone comes around with a new, better way of thinking about the world, it's refreshing. Like the Occupy Movement or the Sharing Economy or the various "Slow Movements", it doesn't have to be immediately profitable in the current system for the idea to be useful. By simply reminding people that things do not have to be the way they are, radical ideas help generate creativity and expand the realm of the possible. And who knows, the more new ideas that are presented, the more likely one or more of them will catch on and we'll end up with a better system than the one we have.

I don't expect to be using a Phoneblok anytime soon. But I applaud Dave Hakkens for seeing his idea through this far. He knows better than his critics give him credit that Phonebloks isn't ready for the present market. That's the whole point of his Thunderclap approach. He wants to radically change the entire landscape of the market. He wants to change the present by re-imagining the future. That takes courage and we need more people putting ideas out for consideration like this.

Join him and learn more at

Phoneblok is radical vision of what tech could be
Critics have been quick to say that Phonebloks isn't realistic with the current market. What they are missing is that this is the entire point of the project. Phonebloks aims to alter the present, but re-imagining the future.

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