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Cellphones Hardware Hacking

Modu Unveils Modular, Transformer-style Phone 88

An anonymous reader writes "A company called Modu has come up with an innovative take on a mobile phone. Instead of giving you the finished product, you get a base unit and a choice of 'sleeves', which you can plug the base unit into and turn it into a variety of devices. "If, for example, you're going out clubbing, you can pop it into a fashion sleeve with a fancy design. If you're on a business trip and you need a phone with a Qwerty keypad and large screen, you just have to pop it into a 'jacket' with those features." There's also the option to plug it into a satellite navigation device or even a car stereo. While it seems like an interesting system, I wonder whether modular devices are better than buying standalone products or all-in-one products?"
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Modu Unveils Modular, Transformer-style Phone

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  • by ardyng ( 973980 ) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @03:33PM (#22338276)

    Actually, it appears to be a very basic phone unit, with the transmitter, antenna, etc, built in. Think of it like a cell phone PC Card [] that can plug into a variety of host devices.

    Only real difference is it seems to have a base functionality without the host.

  • by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @03:59PM (#22338854)
    The two differences seem to be

    1) The base device can supposedly function "stand-alone"; however, it looks like it must be a pain to use in that way. Not sure the advantage of using it stand-alone...

    2) The base device brings more of the "common" functionality with it from jacket to jacket, so there's no need to buy that piece of the system over and over again.

    There's an intuitive feel that (2) creates an economic advantage, and I guess for someone who would otherwise buy multiple mobile devices there might be (depending on the actual pricing, factoring in bundling -- which seems to defeat the point, but whatever). Is it cost-advantageous if I only use it with one jacket? Two? Five? How many cell-based devices do I have to "need" before this becomes economically useful to me?

    That's my question, then: how much need does any given person have for a bunch of devices to which he or she can add cell phone capabilities? The car radio looking thing and the nav device might be interesting if they integrate the cell service in an interesting way, but couldn't you do the same thing wtih an inexpensive data cable to the phone (and maybe a car mounting kit, which you can easily get today)? The only particular advantage to building the devices this way (IMO) would be to leverage an already-existing deployment of Modu base units, and clearly there's not one.

    As for the hand-held sleeves, like one with a larger screen and QWERTY keyboard... maybe useful, but are there trade-offs (like is the combined device bulky or otherwise clumsy when compared to a stand-alone unit)?

    Then again, the fact that they lead with the example of a "stylish" cover you'd use to go clubbing probably indicates that I'm not the target audience, since I find that indescribaly stupid.
  • by WebCowboy ( 196209 ) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @06:57PM (#22341890)
    Think of it like a cell phone PC Card that can plug into a variety of host devices.

    I'm not sure where people got the idea that this phone-gadget was like an oversized SIM card. A SIM card is basically a low-capacity flash-memory card with keys for identity and encryption. This device is basically an entire cellphone, which I understand is functional all on its own at a basic level. The closest thing to this is the W-SIM card which is a SIM with a cellular transceiver welded to its back, but even that lacks the processing power and user-interface that could make it a phone in and of itself.

    I think that you clue in even more than these Modu people do though in mentioning "cell phone PC Card". I'd LOVE to have a basic wireless phone device that was in a PC Card form factor. There are "cellular modems" already out there, but it'd be great if you had one with, say, a gig of flash, embedded processor, a 16-key dial pad, a minimal LCD display (just enough for caller ID or to see what you're dialing) and a small battery (removable if possible but not required--Apple solders in batteries on their i-things after all).

    A standalone-capable "PC Card cellphone" would be quite appealing without any add-ons as a low-cost phone for basic communications--something my mum would like as all she does is place and receive phone calls. Then you could sell a "RAZR-style" dock in which you could latch your PC Card phone that consisted of a larger full-sized display, a camera and perhaps added battery capacity. The logic to drive the display and a simple camera would be relatively low-cost.

    The PC Card form factor would make the possibilities very compelling--you could have this functional stand-alone phone that could slide into your laptop's PC Card slot, transforming it into a combination flash-drive and wireless modem, with the basic phone capabilities still available via a PC application (check your voicemail through your soundcard, do text messaging direct through the phone, etc). Finally, you could have an "EEE PC-style" dock, in which the PC Card phone itself was the processor (actual brains of the computer) but the dock supplied a cheap, sub-notebook form factor just like the EEE PC with similar keyboard, display, battery, extra memory, etc.

    I'm surprised how the vast majority of people dismissed this "modular phone" concept right out of hand as being stupid and made redundant by SIM card technology. It ISN'T a SIM card--you'd but a SIM card INSIDE one of these things to activate it. I think the concept is very sound; it's just the proprietary form-factor that makes for a flawed execution.

    (hopefully there isn't a patent on this concept--if one is filed from this point on I'd make note of this discussion thread as part of the prior-art on the idea ;-)

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