Now There's Build-A-Burger, What About Build-A-Smartphone?

Technology is the enabler. McDonald's is using touchscreen kiosks which will give customers more freedom to be creative without hogging the tills and adding to queuing times.

It might not have escaped your notice that McDonald's is to offer US burger fans the opportunity to build their own bespoke Big Macs - customising their burgers by making them cheesier, saucier, spicier... I'm sure you get the idea.

Technology is the enabler. McDonald's is using touchscreen kiosks which will give customers more freedom to be creative without hogging the tills and adding to queuing times. There are already some instances of this in the restaurant industry, such as the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines that allow up to 125 different drinks to be selected, and dispensed, via touchscreen. These ideas are placing even more power into the hands of the consumer.

By contrast, although phenomenally successful, Apple's iPhone devices offer a very limited array of colours. So if you want to spice things up (like aforementioned Big Mac) you'll often have to buy an external case. There's more variety from other mobile makers with ever-increasing customisability, but if you want to go above and beyond to stand out from the crowd you can only go so far (without opting for a retro phone, that is).

There have already been some collaborations of mobile phone manufacturers and well known brands. LG joined forces with Prada back in 2006 and released three 'LG Prada' phones over the course of five years. More recently, Samsung teamed up with Swarovski to release a special edition Swarovski Galaxy Note 4 or Galaxy Gear S. These gave budding fashionistas a glimpse of the 'edge' they desire (with an appropriate price tag), but what if there was potential to make your phone completely unique?

Computer aficionados may tell you that the best, most economical, way to own a laptop or PC is to build it yourself. With YouTube playing host to a treasure trove of instructional videos, discovering how to build one is easier than ever before, and the potential to easily swap out any components you're unhappy with is nothing to stick your nose up at.

For those of us who'd rather leave it to the professionals, there's also the option to purchase a custom build PC. One caveat is that if you order online you'll often have to wait three or four weeks for one to arrive (unless you want to pay extra to speed up the process). Taking this custom build approach with a phone or tablet, on the other hand, is substantially more difficult.


Last year, a video posted on Youtube called 'Phonebloks', by a gentleman called Dave Hakkens, took a glimpse into a world in which our phone's components are all made up with individual, easily replaceable, blocks.

Smashed Screen? You can buy a replacement or even go for an upgrade to a better one.

Phone seems a bit slow? You can buy a new processor block and replace it in a matter of seconds or increase the RAM to give your phone more multitasking power.

The video even suggests the option of compromising some aspects of the phone in order to place more attention on others; such as opting for a smaller battery for the sake of a bigger hard-drive (although I doubt anyone would go for that one, even if batteries are getting better these days). You can watch it here...

In a time when we're finding it necessary to upgrade or replace our phones every year or two, this could remove the need entirely. The positive environmental ramifications of this, which Dave seems to be particularly geared toward, are definitely worth noting as well.

Project Ara

A month or two after the Phonebloks video went live, Google announced 'Project Ara', which followed a very similar premise, with what it referred to as 'highly modular smartphones'. Harbouring some seriously innovative technology, including specialised magnets that can hold the phone's blocks together, Project Ara will be revealing a prototype in January. Here's an insightful video on that...

Could this pave the way for a time when you can pop into a store, select specifications and a design, and walk out with brand new, bespoke, smartphone? I certainly hope so. Google's efforts might even encourage other manufacturers, like Apple or Microsoft, to hop on the build-a-smartphone bandwagon as well.

If you don't think you can wait for a fix in customisability, it might be worthwhile heading Stateside and creating a Big Mac to tide you over.


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