The company that makes Nokia-branded smartphones announced during Mobile World Congress last month that it plans to begin selling some models under its own brand name in the future. But HMD also introduced a new platform called HMD Fusion, which will be a “slimline computing core that can be fitted with different exteriors.”

In other words, it’s a phone with support for add-on modules that can extend its functionality through cases or covers that increase battery power, add sensors, or provide other hardware such as mobile payment terminals for retail workers. HMD has released an initial development toolkit for the HMD Fusion platform that provides a glimpse of how this could work.

HMD Fusion

In a nutshell, the toolkit provides the physical dimensions and some other key specs for a smartphone that has a set of 6 pogo pins on the back.

Developers can use that included measurements and 3D files to design removable covers or cases, which HMD calls “smart outfits.” These can connect to the phone via the pogo pins. HMD says the first five pins are used for USB 2.0 connections, while the sixth is used for ADC (analog-to-digital converter) detection, and can “be used for bespoke use cases defined” by developers.

That would allow a developer to, for example, create a smartphone case with a built-in battery, allowing you to double your phone’s battery life without carrying around a separate battery pack or covering the phone’s USB-C port. HMD Fusion allows external batteries to provide up to 15W of power to a phone through the pogo pins interface.

But in addition to sending power to a phone, the pogo pins can be used to send up to 5W of power from the phone to a “smart outfit.” This allows these external devices to be powered by your phone, which could enable support for external hardware like cameras, speakers, microphones, and other sensors.

HMD Fusion

HMD isn’t the first company to try to build an ecosystem of smartphone add-ons. The LG G5 smartphone released in 2016 had a slot that allowed users to attach a handful of optional add-on modules for enhanced speaker, battery, or camera features, among other things. But by the time the LG G6 launched the following year, LG had abandoned the modular design.

The Red Hydrogen One smartphone that launched in 2018 had a set of pogo pins that were intended to support modular add-ons such as cameras with RED image sensors and interchangeable lenses. But the camera maker never actually managed to ship any modules before discontinuing the phone a year later.

Motorola probably had the longest, most successful run of smartphones with support for modular add-ons that it called “Moto Mods,” with features like speakers, gamepads, battery packs, and even a Polaroid printer. The first phone to support the feature was the 2016 Moto Z, while the last was the 2019 Moto Z4.

It’s too soon to tell whether the HMD Fusion program will be any more successful. But by releasing a developer toolkit and encouraging the development of third-party “smart outfits,” it’s possible that even if HMD itself fails to offer long-term support for its upcoming phone with pogo pins, other companies and/or hobbyists might be able to fill the gap.

via WinFuture

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  1. I am all for it and will buy one, if they have a keyboard add on. Something I hope they realize though, is Pinephone tried this, and manufacturing tolerances need to be really tight in order to have a seamless experience (pine’s tolerances weren’t the best so the keyboard case often had to be shimmed).

  2. Motorola provided a platform for
    add-on “backpacks” which it carried
    through its Z models Z1 through Z4 (6.4″)
    when it outgrew (its phones are now up to
    6.8″ in size). The backpacks included
    such things as Hasselblad cameras,
    LED projectors, Alexa enabled speakers,
    add-on batteries, even a Qualcomm 5G
    mmWave modem.