We already have a fairly good idea of what the iPhone 12 will look like when it arrives at some point this year, and it’s safe to say you won’t be too surprised. Apple isn’t going to be deviating from the standard black rectangle that’s served it so well for the last decade, but a bold concept from German industrial design student Louis Berger offers a radically different vision of how phones could function.
Given smartphones with advanced cameras seem to require lumpy bumps to hide the photo-taking innards, Berger imagines a concept called Mosaic where the module can be removed and function without its smartphone host.
The camera bump is around the size of an Apple Watch, and would contain everything needed for photography, as well as a small display for colorful notifications, pressure-sensitive bezels and a battery to keep things alive without its host.
The idea is that this would fit into one of two sizes of display tile to function as a regular phone, or an iPod Shuffle-sized wearable. Confused? This diagram might explain Berger’s vision a little more clearly.
It’s certainly a nice idea: you’d be able to pick the phone size that suits you, for one thing – certainly pleasant for those annoyed that Apple hasn’t made a 3.5in iPhone since the original iPhone 4S.
But as nice as the design looks, modular phones have a tricky history that would probably make any manufacturer think twice before pursuing this design.
Just ask LG, which managed just one modular phone before deciding they were too much effort. Or Google, which ditched its own Project Ara concept back in 2016. The best implementation to date has been Motorola’s Moto Mods, and there hasn’t been a compatible handset since last year’s Moto Z4.
In short, without the backing of a Samsung or an Apple, the modular dream seems to be a tough sell. But with these very Apple-style concept designs, we can at least dream of the day Tim Cook produces something like this from his pocket on that Cupertino stage...