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Facebook working on a modular smartphone, reveals patent

Facebook may be working on a smartphone that could be modular in nature. A patent, filed last year and awarded earlier this week, reveals a mysterious "modular electromechanical device" with interchangeable parts. It's unknown if Facebook is really willing to make a modular smartphone in the future.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: July 23, 2017 10:32:39 am
Facebook modular phone, Facebook modular phone patent, modular phones Facebook, modular phones Facebook could be working on a modular smartphone with swappable components. (Image credit: Facebook)

Facebook may be working on a smartphone that could be modular in nature. A patent, filed last year and awarded earlier this week, reveals a mysterious “modular electromechanical device” with interchangeable parts.

The patent explains each module will have a different functions, and the modules include a speaker, a microphone, a display and a GPS. These interchangeable parts when combined could be used as a smartphone or a speaker. “The modular electromechanical device includes a chassis and a plurality of functional modules that can be connected to the chassis”, the patent said.

A report from Business Insider reveals that the employees working on the modular smartphone were earlier working on Google’s Project Ara. The team now work at Facebook’s Building 8 group, which has an expertise to quickly prototype modular devices using 3D printing technique.

This isn’t the first time Facebook is working on new hardware. In 2011, the social networking giant worked with HTC to release two mid-end phones – HTC ChaCha (also known as HTC Status) and HTC Salsa.  The phones came with Facebook pre-loaded and had deep integrations with HTC’s Sense UI.  Two years later, Facebook along with HTC launched a phone called First. It was the first commercial phone to ship with Facebook Home, an app including a new homescreen for Android with automatic updates. There was no clear differentiation, which led to its poor performance in the market.

Drawings in the patent show a design similar to that of Google’s ambitious Project Ara modular smartphone project. The project was delayed beyond the deadline and was scrapped last year. Modular phones may appear to be different, but they are not successful commercially. Take the case of LG G5, which isn’t a terrible phone but failed to generate sales. So far, Lenovo-owned Motorola and Andy Rubin’s new hardware start-up Essential are trying to revive the idea of a modular phone.

It’s unknown if Facebook is really willing to make a modular smartphone in the future. Still Facebook sees the potential of a phone with interchangeable components that Google failed to execute it properly.

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