Category Archives: smartphone

Spotlight: Phonebloks, an ‘App Store for Hardware’

Just as the European smartphone manufacturing market was starting to look a little empty, a young designer called Dave from the Netherlands has cause quite a stir with a concept called Phonebloks.

The idea behind Phonebloks is that users will be able to customise their handset by attaching component ‘bloks’ – whether it’s a processor, battery, camera or even a display – to a pin-based motherboard.

Concerned that consumers are too quick to throw electronics away when they stop working, Dave Hakken’s idea is that each blok could be replaced or upgraded when necessary. In a swipe at the large OEMs, already critcised forsourcing components from conflict zones and having questionable manufacturing processes, Hakkens also points out that current mobile phones are not designed for repairs or upgrades.

Termed an ‘app store for hardware’, third parties would be able to build their own components for the Phonebloks blokstore, everyone from startups to traditional tech players, with the proceeds split between the store and the developer.

Hakkens is not seeking to crowdfund Phonebloks, or rely on a single investor, and is instead using ‘crowdspeaking’ platform Thunderclap to coordinate a wave of individual support for Phonebloks across Twitter, Facebook and Google+, making any potential investors aware of the demand. The number of supporters has already reached 639,298 – 98 per cent of the target – but the R&D on this rather ambitious idea is likely to take far longer.

The Phonebloks site outlines potential subscription services so Phonebloks owners can get regular updates to hardware and send back their old parts. People with specific needs – solar batteries, a high-end camera or large screens for the visually impaired – can choose their components accordingly. And more blocks means a larger device, so tablets are also on the horizon too.

“The market of electronic devices is growing rapidly, but it feels like we are building disposable stuff,” said Hakkens. “Every time we make something new we completely throw away the old one. Imagine all the good displays, bluetooths and speakers we have thrown away. I love the connected world that we live in and it’s time to set up a universal modular platform that companies work on together.”

It’s unclear whether this technology could actually come into production, at least any time soon, but the idea behind Phonebloks – and Hakken’s mission statement of ‘trying to make the world better by making things’ – is a breath of fresh air for the industry. See an explainer video from Phonebloks below.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here.

Smartphone Sales Exceed Feature Phones for First Time

Smartphone sales have exceeded feature phone sales for the first time, according to Gartner’s Market Share Analysis. While sales of smartphones worldwide have increased by 46.5 per cent year-on-year to 225m, feature phone sales declined 21 per cent to 210m handsets. 

Android is still the largest operating system, with 178m devices worldwide using Google’s OS. This gives it a 79 per cent share, which has increased from 64.2 per cent from the same time a year earlier. Apple remains in second and sold 31.9m iOS devices in Q2, giving it a 14.7 per cent market share.  

Windows now claims the third spot, overtaking BlackBerry, with 7.4m devices sold running its operating system, or 3.3 per cent. BlackBerry sold 6.1m devices in Q2, a decline of 22 per cent from 2012. 

Samsung maintained the largest share of smartphone handset sales, at 71.4m or 31.7 per cent. After Apple handsets, LG comes in third, selling 11.5m devices, giving it a 5.1 per cent share. Although Windows is the third OS, the flagship Nokia Lumia range has not made it onto the top handsets list. 

Samsung’s sales grew by 56 per cent during this period, while Apple’s grew 10 per cent.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here:

Spotlight: Fairphone’s Crowdfunded Ethical Smartphone

While you now touch your smartphone more than your partner, you’ve probably made less effort to find out any more about what’s on the inside.

If you found out your husband or wife was involved with child slavery, you’d certainly have to reconsider your relationship. I don’t know how you pick your partner, but your smartphone, your real best mate, actually probably is.

We don’t really know anything about where our handsets come from or who made them. George Monbiot, environmental columnist for the Guardian, recently did a report into the ethics of the industry. “There are dozens of issues,” he said, “such as starvation wages, bullying, abuse and 60-hour weeks in the sweatshops manufacturing them, the debt bondage into which some of the workers are pressed, the energy used, the hazardous waste produced. But I will concentrate on just one: are the components soaked in the blood of people from the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo?”

He found that Nokia appears to be the manufacturer most conscious of its ethical footprint, in terms of trying to get the precious metals that it takes to build a smartphone, tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold, from legal sources. He found the policies of the operators who sell smartphones and other manufacturers to be less convincing. Scenes of riots in Apple’s factories in China have been beamed around the world, while Samsung recently admitted after another Guardian investigation that its phones contain tin mined from an area that uses child labour and where 150 miners die every year.

Step forward Fairphone.

FairPhone‘s sleek Android handset has been three years in the making and it has now gone on pre-sale. The company needs 5,000 buyers of the £275 device in order to get the first batch out the door. The company says it has created an alternative for the “thing we can’t live without” with a transparent supply chain and ethical principles built-in. All the metals it contains come from conflict-free mines and the company says it has focused on improving the wages and conditions of its factory workers it China.

 For every Fairphone sold, €3 goes to removing e-waste from Ghana and in September, a shipping container filled with 100,000 phones and batteries will head to Belgium to be safely recycled. They encourage people to sell their old phones to recycling services, something they will introduce for Fairphones. Among their mantras is “reduce, reuse, refurbish, recycle”. “Our end goal is fewer phones in circulation – not more!” Which is a probably a scary prospect for our throwaway consumers and manufacturers.

But what about the specs? It is the running the latest version of Android, Jelly Bean, and its chipset is up there with the Samsung S4 as a 1.2GHz quadcore. But its 1GB of RAM and extra 20g doesn’t quite match up. Other than that, it has the full front/back camera, glass frontage and 16GB of internal memory.

And there probably ain’t anything quite like the feeling in your heart when you can pick up your best friend knowing that you won’t get blood on your hands.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here