Modular Upgradeable Mobility: The PuzzlePhone

Consumers are increasingly raising the bar of expectations when it comes to every new iteration of mobile devices: more responsive digital innards, larger and pixel-dense screens, cameras which sometimes rival point-and-shoot models…all constructed to try to meet the unrealistic expectations of consumers who often treat their miniature computers like their keys and wallet.

But one consumer criticism which might ring with truth is smartphone manufacturers have never seriously attempted to address the wasteful cycle of purchase/discard/upgrade. Cue in Circular Devices’ PuzzlePhone. The Finnish company hopes to infuse modular component and feature upgradability into the vocabulary of phone makers, with the goals to extend ownership beyond just a few years.


Circular Devices is designing the PuzzlePhone with user customization at its core (and the Android OS as pilot software): the health and fitness minded can add sensors specific to their activities, the power user can bulk up and add more RAM, mobile photographers could theoretically slide in bigger and better cameras. Slide-in modular components are separated into three areas with repairability, open source customization, and upgrades in mind:

    Spine: Core of the Puzzlphone, with the LCD screen containing the main controls, speakers, and microphone.
    Heart: the battery and “secondary electronics”.
    Brain: Main upgradeable electronics, including the camera.


“Prosumers do not care about who holds which patent; they are informed individuals who recognize the ideas’ value for what it is, not because some- body filed a paper, stored in a safe waiting to become outdated, misused, or even worse, serve as a weapon against other people’s ideas. In that sense The Puzzle Phone Foundation’s mission is also to be a trusted beacon for the platform.”


Whether the mobile industry is ready, or more importantly willing, for a paradigm shift in how devices are made and sold is yet to be seen. Consumers will have to wait till mid-2015 to see if modular phones have a fighting chance when the first PuzzlePhone is set to arrive to market.

Gregory Han is a Senior Editor at Design Milk. A Los Angeles native with a profound love and curiosity for design, hiking, tide pools, and road trips, a selection of his adventures and musings can be found at