August 4, 2015

Puzzlephone users repair their own phones

The Puzzlephone consists of a screen, detachable battery and central processing unit.
The Puzzlephone consists of a screen, detachable battery and central processing unit.
CIRCULAR DEVICES OY

After working in Spain for 15 years in a number of technology companies, Alejandro Santacreu wished to create something new. Before that could happen, however, he had to move to Finland. What resulted is the Puzzlephone, Finland’s, and possibly the world’s, first modular phone.

“I noticed something when taking the bus,” says Santacreu. “Many people had broken screens on their phones. When I asked them why they didn’t do something about it, the answer I got was always: ‘I don’t have time to take my phone to be repaired.”

His simple solution? Repair your phone’s screen yourself.

The Puzzlephone, consisting of modular, or detachable, parts is the first product created by Santacreu’s company Circular Devices. It is not yet available in stores but the company is planning to have the smart phone on the markets by the end of the year.

In addition to the screen, also the battery and the central processing unit (CPU) can be detached. This makes it possible to repair a broken part, such as a screen, yourself – buy a new screen, replace the old broken one with it and voila! Your phone is fixed.

“You don’t need to buy a new phone, just a new part,” says Santacreu.

Similarly, the phone can be upgraded to a new version, simply by exchanging the CPU for an updated one.

This extends the lifecycle of the phone and reduces electronics waste.

“If your old CPU is too slow for you, you can give it to your grandparents, for example,” Santacreu says.

Designed in Finland, manufactured in Europe

The company, established in 2013, was launched in Finland but Santacreu is from the village of Saint Juan in Alicante, Spain.

How did a Spanish engineer end up in Helsinki, 4000 kilometres from his home village?

In March 2015, Puzzlephone announced a new partnership: the Spanish company Imas D will be responsible for the phone’s technology. To the left in the photo Pedro David Pelaez from Imas D and to the right Alejandro Santacreu.

In March 2015, Puzzlephone announced a new partnership: the Spanish company Imas D will be responsible for the phone’s technology. To the left in the photo Pedro David Pelaez from Imas D and to the right Alejandro Santacreu.

Juan Díaz Díaz

“When people ask me how I ended up in Finland, I tell them that my GPS broke down,” he says with a laugh. “My wife and I spent a lot of time deliberating where we would like to move. Our list included the Nordics, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.”

The couple eventually decided on Finland because it is an EU country and, according to Santacreu, has the best expertise: “Thanks to Nokia you have a lot of competence in technology.”

Santacreu, a self-professed nerd, worked for various companies in Spain for over 15 years, during which time he ran into a number of problems that he became determined to fix. Before he could do this, however, he had to establish a company and assemble the right group of people around it.

The result was Circular Devices, which became domiciled in Helsinki and launched its first product – the Puzzlephone.

The Puzzlephone is backed by a complete ideology.

“The transfer of all production to Asia means that people are in a situation where they are not aware of how devices work. And when you don’t know how something works, you don’t know how to fix it either,” Santacreu says.

“Copied credit cards, information leaks, you name it,” Santacreu says.

His goal is to bring production back to Europe. Designed in Finland, manufactured in Europe. That is Puzzlephone’s ideology in a nutshell.

“Apple is a good example: the company has slowly begun to build a product chain that is not entirely dependent on Asia,” Santacreu says.

World’s first modular phone from Finland?

Puzzlephone is by no means the only modular phone being developed. The best-known modular phone is currently Google’s Project Ara, which consists of several modules, around eight according to the latest estimates. The characteristics of Google’s phone have been divided up into smaller parts. The phone’s memory, for example, is stored in a separate detachable module.

According to Santacreu, Ara is too complex. In his opinion people are interested in the simpler aspects of their phones, such as longer-lasting batteries.

Puzzlephone has received praise for its simplicity and the company is backed by a number of high-profile supporters.

One of the company’s finest moments took place when Europe’s largest technical research organisation, the Fraunhofer institute, decided to support the phone.

Another similar moment was when Tapani Jokinen, the designer of Nokia’s 3310 and 1100 phones, became a partner.

“It made us feel certain we were on the right track.”

In March, Santacreu announced a new partnership at the Mobile World Congress: the Spanish company Imas D will be responsible for the phone’s technology. The phone will utilise Click ARM technology, which is compatible with, for example, tablets utilising the same technology.

At the moment, Puzzlephone is waiting for the next step – the first prototype.

At least based on the photos, the device bears a slight resemblance to Nokia phones, which is not really a surprise:

“It is inspired by Finnish design,” Santacreu reveals.

CEO Alejandro Santacreu presenting the Puzzlephone at the Mobile World Congress in early 2015.

CEO Alejandro Santacreu presenting the Puzzlephone at the Mobile World Congress in early 2015.

Dan Taylor

Text: Karolina Miller

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