PuzzlePhone: A New Modular Smartphone Concept

Smartphones – The idea of a modular smartphone has been reported in the news for some time. Think Google’s Project Ara. Part of what makes the idea so attractive is that, should one part of the smartphone need repair or upgrade, there is no need to replace the entire device.

In addition, modularity should provide means for the user to customize the features and capabilities of the smartphone. The latest concept for a modular smartphone comes from a start-up called Circular Devices OY (Helsinki, Finland). The company calls its new modular smartphone the PuzzlePhone.

One big difference between the PuzzlePhone and Google’s Ara is that the PuzzlePhone keeps modularity to a minimum. Instead of having 8 to 10 swappable parts like the prototype Ara devices, Puzzlephone only has three. By minimizing the number of parts, PuzzlePhone would not, perhaps, be as customizable as the Project Ara smartphone but, it is suggested, would be easier for the end user.


The three components of the Puzzlephone are:

  • A “Brain” module that houses main upgradeable electronics, including the camera, its processing power and the volume buttons. The PuzzlePhone should also be able to swap between OS thanks to the fact that the Brain can be swapped out.
  • A “Heart” module containing the PuzzlePhone’s battery and “secondary electronics”.

The Heart and Brain both slide into:

  • A “Spine” containing the main controls, speakers and microphone as well as housing the LCD and home button.

Neodymium magnets are used to attach and hold the modules together. A mechanical latch keeps them in place.

The PuzzlePhone is designed to enable user customization. As examples: the health and fitness minded can add sensors specific to their activities. High capacity users can add more RAM. Mobile photographers could slide in better cameras.

The PuzzlePhone is based on open source, initially Android. Later on, perhaps Windows Phone, Firefox OS or Sailfish OS.

Puzzlephone is planning to offer different display sizes: 4.3″, 4.7″ and 5″ have been proposed.

The materials currently considered for use in the Puzzlephone are recyclable. As a result, it is claimed that the PuzzlePhone should have a low environmental impact.

At this time, Puzzlephone exists only in the form of conceptual drawings. Nonetheless, it is the company’s intention to eventually release PuzzlePhone standards for all hardware developers and manufacturers to utilize. To that end, the PuzzlePhone Compatible Standard (PPCS) has been established. It is a non-profit organization supported by the community of developers, manufacturers, founding members and donors. The main goals of the PPCS are:

  • To develop working hardware: as a reference for the industry.
  • To develop working software: ready for deployment in any hardware labelled as PuzzlePhone Compatible (PPC).
  • To provide support and certification that warrants standard compliance to all stakeholders including end users, developers and manufacturers.

More information on the PPCS can be found here.

Circular Devices has received seed funding and was incorporated this past September. If the company is able to secure the funding needed for full R&D, the company expects to release the first PuzzlePhone in the second half of 2015. It is anticipated that the device will sell in the “mid-range price category”. – Arthur Berman

Circular Devices OY, Alejandro Santacreu, [email protected]