The Modu, with its extremely lateral-thinking approach to cellphone design, created something of an Internet sensation when its maker revealed plans for a modular cellphone last year. And now, 12 months later, it looks like the device will finally get a big unveiling at the upcoming Mobile World Congress tradeshow.
The heart of the Modu concept is easy to understand: It’s a tiny, and I mean really tiny–possibly the world’s smallest–cellphone unit that handles essential phone applications and hardware. It’s got a basic keyboard, screen and interface, and acts as a media player and 2GB mass-storage device as well as contains the SIM card and cellphone electronics.
The core is designed to be easily dockable into a series of “jackets” that add extra, use-specific, hardware to the overall device. You can imagine it being useful if you’re out jogging, and you select an MP3/GPS jacket, or you’re off for a walk in the countryside and you choose the full-function digital camera jacket in case you see something worth photographing. It’s kind of the Swiss Army Knife of cellphones, or an evolution of the once-trendy Nokia phones with interchangeable plastic shells.
After spending a reported $85 million of venture capital funding on development, the Israeli company behind the device is ready to show a production-ready Modu device at the MWC show. It will demonstrate the core and several jackets: The “night jacket,” which is style-centric and sports flashing lights and night-mode imaging; the “street art,” which has stereo speakers and dedicated music controls; the “classic,” which is a simple multi-function device like a normal cellphone; and the “express,” which adds a multicolored style to both the phone and its UI.
The phone is expected to go on sale early “next quarter” for a reported “under $200” target price–and that should get you the core and two jackets.
Predicting how well the Modu will sell is nearly impossible: There’s nothing out there like it. But, it may do well with the youth market thanks to its customizability and relatively low price. And it’s a novel device, one that will get people talking. At the very least it demonstrates that it’s possible to build a “jack of all trades, master of none” gizmo that will act as a stopgap until a fully-converged, light and very capable smartphone/cameraphone/MP3phone exists.