Google’s Project Ara may be the highest-profile attempt to build a modular smartphone and an ecosystem of modules and software that will let you swap out displays, batteries, processors, and just about everything else. But Google isn’t the only company working on modular designs for mobile devices.
Click ARM and PuzzlePhone have their own ideas, and Chinese phone maker ZTE showed off a modular smartphone concept over a year ago.
Now there’s a new modular smartphone project called Fonkraft. The developers are hoping to raise $50,000 for the project through crowfunding site Indiegogo… but proceed with caution. While the developers hope to ship the first Fonkraft models this fall, I’m a little skeptical that Fonkraft hardware will ever see the light of day.
Update: Indiegogo has cancelled the campaign and promised to refund any contributions.
The Fonkraft team has some pretty nice looking designs… but it doesn’t look like there’s actually a working prototype at this point and $50,000 I’m skeptical that $50,000 will be enough money to actually turn this concept into a real, working product.
Note that the crowdfunding campaign also uses “flexible funding” which means the team gets to keep any money that’s pledged, whether it reaches it goal or not.
So while I’m not sure I’d recommend donating money to the project in hopes of receiving an actual device, the Fonkraft concept certainly looks pretty interesting.
The idea is to build a modular phone that includes a removable display section as well as connectors on the back of the device for batteries, cameras, processors, storage, and memory, among other things.
Fonkraft also wants to sell several different configurations that come with a series of modules. For $99 you would get a Fonkraft Pilot with basic specs including a 5 inch, 720p display, Android Lollipop, a dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage. There’d be two batteries in this model, totalling 4100 mAh of capacity.
There are two proposed $199 models, the Fonkraft resolution and the Fonkraft HiFi. Both have quad-core processors, 2GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage as well as 5 inch, 1080p displays. But one model has a 20MP rear camera, while the other has a high-end audio module for 192 kHz sound.
Or for $299 you can request a Fonkraft Elements which comes with all available modules, allowing you to swap out components depending on whether you want more battery life, a better camera, or other features.
Sounds pretty great… but the low prices are another thing that makes me kind of suspicious.
While companies including Xiaomi and OnePlus have shown that you can offer high-end hardware at affordable prices if you’re willing to sell smartphones at or near the price it costs to manufacture them, Fonkraft is proposing creating a series of unique modules designed for a unique system. I can’t imaging how the company could create any of those things just by raising $50,000 in crowdfunding unless the company already has a lot of cash in the bank and is using the Indiegogo campaign to raise awareness rather than money.
Note that Indiegogo, unlike Kickstarter, doesn’t require campaigns to list “risks and challenges.”
All told, Fonkraft might be little more than a series of pretty pictures. But they are pretty… and they give us something to look at while waiting for Google’s Project Ara pilot to launch in Puerto Rico later this year.
Already done… But on kickstarter..
Again, a quick money-grab. Just like Neptune Hub. Besides, even if they manage to do it, is it really good, if we have two different, incompatible modular platforms (Ara and this) instead of one open platform?
Just give me a removable battery and SD card slot.
It’s not a lot to ask, is it? But seems to be contrary to some notion of “progress” prevalent in the industry.
I’m trying to remember how many millions Canonical wanted to raise to build a phone. This seems extremely unlikely.
There was a project to manufacture a replacement motherboard to the Nokia N900 (Neo900 or something). Nothing fancy, just more RAM and a newer CPU. That was about $500 / motherboard. Not indiegogo or anything, a real project that originated from the Maemotalk forums. As far as I know, they haven’t even finished that one in 2 years. It’s not simple, and you definitely can’t do that from $50 000 of even $500 000.
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