Facebook patents a modular device that could also be a phone

Is the dream of the modular phone dead? Not if you ask Lenovo and Motorola, though their concept of a modular phone is not exactly what you might have in mind. Closer to that dream that went down with Google's Project Ara is something that Facebook has in mind. Yes, Facebook has an idea for a modular phone. Or rather, it has patented what is technically a generic "modular electromechanical device" that, in at least one permutation, could also function as a phone.

In the tech world, patents are almost too common and cheap, so just having one doesn't exactly translate getting even a prototype out the door, let alone an actual retail product. It's more a sign of intention and also legal assurance, in case they do decide to proceed with it.

The sketch for the patent doesn't look anything like a phone. Based on that and snippets of descriptions, it may be closer to being a modular smart home speaker than a smartphone. In theory, one could plug in or swap out modules like speakers, mics, GPS, touch screen, or a cellular modem. The device, which is connected to a server, could have different software, depending on the module that has just been inserted.

Fanning the speculation flames is the fact that the patent comes from Facebook's Building 8 group. This group charged with R&D for futuristic hardware is coincidentally made up of members from Google's now defunct Project Ara team. Yes, the very people behind what should have been the true modular smartphone.

Whether that turns into an actual product is, of course, an uncertain future. Google was almost close to that reality but pulled the plug at the last minute. Facebook might have more ambitious uses for such a device, though it's not easy to see how at this point in time. You can bet, of course, that it'll have something to do with being social and, perhaps, getting your data in the process.

VIA: Business Insider