Facebook may be looking to develop modular smartphones

Google Project Ara
Googles scrapped Project Ara modular smartphone

A mysterious Facebook patent recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office reveals that Facebook may be taking a leaf out of Google’s book and working on a ‘modular electromechanical device’.

Modular hardware enables users to switch between the components on the device, dependent on their needs, meaning the owner of the device can choose their own processor, camera, display, and more.

The team behind the modular device is Facebook’s Building 8 hardware group, which is also working on enabling people to control computers by using just their brains.

Facebook modular smartphone sketch
A sketch of Facebooks modular device concept

“Conventional consumer electronics have a short life cycle,” says Facebook, outlining their reasons for the project in the patent filing. “Consumers purchase consumer electronics that utilise cutting edge technology only to find their electronics are outdated in the near future. The consumer electronics are then thrown away and replaced with the latest version of the electronics and the life cycle of the electronics repeats.

“Typically, the hardware components included in the consumer electronics that are considered ‘outdated’ are still useable. However, the hardware components can no longer be re-used since consumer electronics are designed as closed systems. From a consumer perspective, the life cycle of conventional consumer electronics is expensive and wasteful.”

The most famous previous attempt at creating a modular consumer device was by Google. In 2014, the tech giant announced plans for its Project Ara modular smartphone. However, after delayed launches, Google decided to scrap Project Ara – opting instead for the now well-known Pixel smartphones instead. Interestingly, members from Google’s Project now work as part of Facebook’s Building 8.