Time to Blok your Mobile?




Dutchman Dave Hakkens aims to be the man mobile phone manufacturers will either love or hate.  For he has a vision —  a mobile phone designed to last.

phoneblocks2

His Phoneblok (see photo above) is made of detachable ‘bloks’ connected to a base which locks everything together into a solid phone. If a ‘blok’ breaks it is easily replaced or if it’s getting old it can be upgraded. Definitely not the way matters mobile work at the moment and therein lies the rub. On his side is the growing mountain of discarded un-recycled plastic phones, on the other is the big question can he persuade the telecoms industry to adapt his idea?

The French agency for ecological living, Ademe, for instance, estimates that in France alone where Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a well entrenched motto, more than 130 million redundant mobile phones are nevertheless cluttering up people’s homes .

Technological waste is the fastest growing area of refuse generation in Europe (see graph below). Part of the problem is that as technology moves forward so fast obsolescence is now reduced to months rather than years. Another reason is that the big smart phone manufacturers use canny marketing to ensure consumers replace their mobiles every year or two for obvious reasons.

Land fill waste stats (Credi: Philippe Rekacewicz, UNEP GRID-Arendal

Land fill waste stats (Credi: Philippe Rekacewicz, UNEP GRID-Arendal

Often when a phone breaks down it is due to the failure of only one tiny component but it is then usually cheaper to replace that phone than to repair it.

Apparently tiring of this tread-wheel Dave Hakkens came up with a concept that has created a viral buzz and attracted millions of intrigued supporters. He is promoting an idea — the Blok Phone — which, if the industry takes up the challenge, could see that vast amount of mobile plastic wastage greatly reduced.

His concept is a phone made up of inter-changeable parts that could be customized by the phone owners themselves. His prototype looks a bit like a piece of Lego all attached to a mother board. Need a larger memory simply clip in a bigger block. Your processor has gone down. Clip it out and replace it with another as seen in the video clip below:


Hakkens is not trying to take ownership of the concept rather he is seeking to show the world an idea that he believes could revolutionise the mobile phone industry and do away with the a majority of obsolete phones.

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To promote the concept Hakkens has put it out to a crowdsourcing website on the Internet known as Thunderclap. This uses social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr to broadcast to a huge audience. He is asking his supporters in the social media community to click a button on their preferred social media sites simultanesouly on October 29 on the basis that if enough people can demonstrate their interest industry, and perhaps even governments, will be forced to sit up and take notice.

In a remarkably short space of time Hakkens has been able to exceed his required number of supporters. At the time of writing he had over 650 000 backers with potential to reach 280 million contacts and there is still more than a month to go before the big Thunderclap deadline. See his Facebook page here.

Call out for global tweet to spread the phoneblok word

Call out for global tweet to spread the phoneblok word

There is clearly little doubt that Hakkens has triggered public interest. There are a number of questions to answer though. Even if this turns out to be the biggest Thunderclap of all time, are big players in the smart phone industry prepared to listen to what the market wants, and allow a co operative venture to move in on their territory? More importantly will customers really follow up on their social media vote by buying into what may be a clunkier less fashionable product.
phoneblocks1
It will be interesting to see where this goes. It is easy to blame big companies for the huge amount of waste generated but consumers need to take some responsibility as well.

In France there are several firms that recycle phones (here and here)  including the charity Emaus, yet less than 10% of mobiles are handed over for recycling.

While Hakkens’ idea is a good one, the question is, has its time now come and will consumers who talk the environmental talk, walk the environmental walk?

Story: Mike Alexander
mike@mikealexander.fr

  • Mike Alexander is a regular contributor to French News Online, offering topical gardening advice in his monthly column and exploring quirky nature and food habits in France.

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