modular design for iphone

I used to know that each product, like car, cellphone, TV, is not being produced by one single manufacture. I used to treat this as cooperation example, but now I know it is the modularity. Take iphone as an example.

The whole cellphone can be decomposed into several parts, the core process chip, sound and visual card, battery, speaker, home button with fingerprint recognize chip, camera, wifi receiver, each separate part manage different function. And they are all hidden inside one cellphone. The chips are not all being produced by Apple Company, which may become a huge work that are unable to complete. The company just uses modular design; they compose different function parts together to achieve a goal of multi-function smart phone. For example, they combined the press button with finger print-recognize chip so the iphone can be unlock by people’s fingerprint. And also, the fingerprint recognize technique is applied with different applications like Paypal and appstore so that you may pay, or log in application by your finger print.

The modularity can also help companies to save money, and easier to repair. If your screen is broken, change a screen, if your speaker is not working, change a speaker. In a indecomposable system, you would have to buy a new cellphone under each case.

Also, if company wants to upgrade operating system, we just have to upgrade it instead of buying a new one to get the newest edition. The new iphone come with new design of function just need to add or change parts to the existing system. For example, the new iphone X added facial recognition technique into cellphone, combined with camera, so now you may also unlock cellphone with your face. It cost low communication cost since designers do not have to know how each part process, they just need to know what different parts are responsible for. The interfaces are hiding information from designers to improve efficiency, as well as accelerate innovation process. Different companies produce slightly different products with same function can make designers easier to choose the best parts, exchange and decline time period for new design. But with the developing world of knowledge, designers are also challenged to acknowledge the change and new function in these parts. The dynamic strategies is also very important for designers since things are developed more rapidly with modularity.


picture :

Martin Irvine, Introduction to Modularity and Abstraction Layers

Lidwell, William, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler, Universal Principles of Design

Richard N. Langlois, Modularity in Technology and Organization