Smartphones for Life? Modular Designs for Circular Products Lifecycles

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© Fraunhofer IZM
Stop stacking: Modular designs by Fraunhofer IZM enable longer working lives

Modular smartphones have the unique ability to upgrade to keep pace with technology’s progress and changing consumer habits. This gives the devices a longer useful life, which means fewer phones need to be produced and their ecological footprint can be reduced. To realize all of the potential of modular designs, the MoDeSt project is investigating the technical, social, and commercial factors at work to find solutions for viable modular concepts.

Fraunhofer IZM is heading the project with responsibility for the environmental assessments and definition of ecodesign criteria.

Project information

Duration: July 01, 2019 - July 31, 2020

Funding code: 033R231

Project website:



The MoDeSt project is being supported through the funding initiative “Resource Efficient Circular Economies – Innovative Product Cycles (ReziProK)“ . ReziProK is part of the BMBF research concept “Resource Efficient Circular Economies”, introduced to support projects working on new business models, design concepts, or digital technologies for closed-loop product lifecycles.

Logo - Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Project Partners

  • SHIFT GmbH
  • TU Berlin, Fachgebiet Transdisziplinäre Nachhaltigkeitsforschung in der Elektronik
  • Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Centre for Sustainability Management
  • AfB gemeinnützige GmbH
  • Johannes Kepler Universität Linz (JKU)
  • Institute for Integrated Quality Design (assoziierter Partner)


A question of design

How form and functions support moderate and sustainable smartphone use.



A vision of sustainable smartphone product design

Most high-end smartphones have one thing in common – they all look very similar. Take any device from a leading manufacturer, and you will see  a powerful camera, a large display, and generally angular features. They all have the same elements and components, in more or less the same place.



What makes modular smartphones sustainable for different user groups?

The average working life of a smartphone among the over-16s in Germany lasts only around 7 to 12 months. Users opt for newer models as a result of the fast innovation cycles, driven by the high competitive pressure on manufacturers, and their own desire for up-to-date systems and better battery life.

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