The modular smartphone ambition of several companies almost reached a dead end after Google shut its Project Ara initiative last year. Now, Facebook is reportedly exploring ways to get into the hardware business, and it might involve the modular smartphone route. Moreover, Facebook's modular smartphone is reportedly being built by Building 8 team which includes many former Google Project Ara team members.
Business Insider has spotted a patent application published by Facebook which describes a "modular electromechanical" device that can house a touch display, GPS capability, speaker, microphone, and can make calls.
The patent document describes the device as collection of various embodiments of a modular electromechanical device including chassis and a plurality of functional modules that can be connected to the chassis. It adds that "each module is associated with a different functionality." The patent application shows that the Building 8 team is responsible for the new patent. Notably, the patent application points that the device could be seen in phone or speaker category. The patent shows schematics for the new device, and it doesn't look like a phone. However, the components seen in the image look like modular in nature. We can safely assume that the device in patent application is just a reference design.
Unfortunately, there is no word whether the new hardware is a phone or a new category altogether. In April last year, Facebook hired Google's Regina Dugan who ran the company's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) division. Dugan is now heading the Building 8 team.
Another excerpt from the patent notes, "Typically, the hardware components included in the consumer electronics that are considered 'outdated' are still useable. However, the hardware components can no longer be re-used since consumer electronics are designed as closed systems. From a consumer prospective, the life cycle of conventional consumer electronics is expensive and wasteful." Moreover, the new Facebook patent was filed in January 2017 and granted on Thursday.