Is Facebook working on building its own Modular Smartphone? If the recent patent filed by it with the United States Patent and Trademark office is an indication, it certainly could be the case.
The patent in question is for a Modular Electromechanical Device and was filed under Patent No. 20170208700 on Jan 17, 2017 by Facebook employees Baback Elmich, Alexandre Jais, Rex Wenters Crossen and Andrew Alexander Robberts, all on board as a result of Facebook’s acquisition of Nascent Objects in September last year. It seems to have come to light after being published yesterday, Jul 20. Appocalypse has had a look at the patent which includes schematics of modular devices setup in different configurations. The patent is described as containing “embodiments of a modular electromechanical device”.
Google was working on a similar project in the past called Project Ara, although it recently pulled the plug on that one for unknown reasons. Both Google’s Project Ara and Facebook’s patent address the fallacy of consumer electronics having a short life-span which results in wastage of the components inside since smartphones have been traditionally built on a System-on-a-Chip (SoC) architecture. Modular smartphones have long been heralded as the savior of consumers in that they would allow swapping parts in and out of a smartphone just like a Desktop.
“Typically, the hardware components included in the consumer electronics that are considered outdated are still useable”, the patent explains. “However, the hardware components can no longer be reused since consumer electronics are designed as closed systems.” The patent goes on to elaborate on how this could change with a modular design. “The functionality of the modular electromechanical device is defined based on the functionality of the different functional modules that are connected to the electromechanical device. Thus, a user can change the functionality of the modular electromechanical device based upon which functional modules the user chooses to connect to the chassis.”
Nascent Objects which was acquired by Facebook for an undisclosed amount is behind the patent. Facebook’s intent behind the acquisition is becoming clear as the company looks to probably build its own smartphone to empower even more consumers to use Facebook. It goes without saying then that should such a project see the light of the day, it is bound to come with the Facebook app pre-installed.