A Facebook unit devoted to hardware filed a patent application in January for a mysterious "modular electromechanical device" that could have speakers, cameras, microphones, touchscreens, and displays”. The patent, awarded last week, has invited speculations as to Facebook’s future endeavors into the smartphone/modular phones’ market.
So what exactly is a modular device? In layman terms, it’s a phone-like device that you can take apart, shuffle and put back together as per your convenience – providing enhanced features like longer battery life, better camera, better audio etc. based on the parts you’re using or how you’re arranging them.
The technology has been in action for the past few years, with Google’s very own modular smartphone Project Ara making as well as exciting the news in 2016. Subsequently, LG became the first leading smartphone manufacturer to produce a flagship phone based on modular technology last year. The LG G5 had modular battery packs, cameras, and Hi-Fi systems.
Regardless, modular devices haven’t been able to gain momentum in the market as of yet; leading to the question of whether Facebook’s plans of venturing into the field, if any at all, will prove sustainable.
The patent could’ve been filed for two reasons – Facebook actually plans on looking into developing their own phone OR Facebook may have filed for the patent to prevent rivals or other tech giants stealing a charge on the technology.
In case of the former, Facebook does have a few things going for them, investment capital being the foremost. The modules are also described as being 3D-printable, which could mean that developing these devices might be easier than their predecessors. Lastly, a number of employees at Nascent Objects, the unit responsible for filing the patent, have previously worked on Google’s failed ARA Project, and probably know what they’re getting into better than most.
Regardless of whether Facebook’s advances fail within the category, what’s important is that modular devices could be the future of mobile devices and technological giants heavily investing in the field is exactly the boost it needs.