Renew Concept Envisions a Layered Approach to Sustainability

09.18.20 | By
Renew Concept Envisions a Layered Approach to Sustainability

Modular mobile devices proposed by the likes of Google and Fairphone already explore and emphasize “upgradeability” as a key feature. Yet, user upgradeability remains more conceptual than a widespread reality in the mobile sector. Morrama’s Renew concept investigates a similar roadmap with a modular design separating the screen and battery from the main components – a layered and swappable/upgradeable design that could end, or at least delay, the upgrade cycle.

Imagined as “a more sustainable and cost-effective” device engineered to delay obsolescence, the Renew is divided into distinct user upgradeable layers. Crack the screen? Simply switch out only the top display layer. Experiencing sluggish performance a few years down the line? Switch out the heart and brains of the SoC and GPU. Tiring of the color/finish? Simply swap in a new color via battery pack/back.

Renew’s novel conceit is a design where upgradeability is as simple as adding a protective case. The layered approach breaks – or at least pauses – the upgrade cycle. The layered modular design allows users an easy upgrade path for their mobile device, almost as simple as slapping on a protective case. Biodegradable corn starch bio-plastic and nano carbon material batteries additionally reduce the total environmental impact across the device’s life and use.

One study found the continued use of a smartphone for five to seven years results in the reduction of CO2 emissions annually by a significant 28-40%. But we all know whether out of desire or design, mobile devices do not always age gracefully, with the temptation to upgrade to the latest and greatest is undeniably cultural as it is technological. Renew addresses the consumer desire for “better” and “more” without requiring full replacement.

While only a concept, Morrama’s Renew places a much needed emphasis on sustainability and upgradeability as prominently as any benchmarks. But as Google’s Project Ara revealed, intent doesn’t always result in reality. Hopefully in time options to upgrade and customize mobile devices will become as numerous as that offered in the PC market, noting our smartphones are every bit a computer as those found sitting on our laps and desks.

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