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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Phones

Hands-on with Modu phone and its jackets

Recently, we reported on the Modu phone, a handset that can be converted into several different devices via a 'jacket'. See our hands-on pics from Barcelona

Whichever way you look at it, Modu had a massive impact at this year's Mobile World Congress. We reported on the Modu modular handset days before the event in Barcelona started and when we got there, the activity around Modu's booth was feverish.

So what's the big deal? Well, this is a very novel idea and, depending on what Modu does with it, could revolutionise the mobile phone market, among other things. It's pretty simple really -- you buy a Modu phone and then you can stick it into a variety of 'jackets'.

Imagine that the Modu phone is a motorised Lego piece and whatever Lego construction (jacket) you stick it to, it will energise it. In other words, you can put the Modu phone into a variety of modular devices, such as smart phones or sat-navs, and make them work.

Of course, it all sounds unnecessary until you hear that the jackets will come at a very low price relative to standalone products. The Modu system is cheaper because the jackets don't require that many parts, since the Modu already contains much of the electronics.

But this raises the ultimate question of whether or not the Modu system will produce a series of high-end modular devices that come at a low price, or lots of half-baked ones that don't work as well as their standalone counterparts.

When we put this question to Modu in Barcelona it responded confidently and hinted that large manufacturers across industries, including cameras, were interested in making devices that would allow Modu integration.

The key for the future of Modu lies within these deals. There could be a Dell laptop with a Modu slot or a Canon dSLR with a Modu slot enabling it to send photos wirelessly. It's all potentially very exciting, but at the moment, those deals aren't in place, so we're not holding our breath.

Click through to the next page for pictures of Modu jackets and prototype jackets. -Andrew Lim

This jacket shows how the Modu can easily be turned into a smart phone with a Qwerty keypad. The great thing about this system is that you could easily take the Modu out when you wanted a small phone.

If you're wondering, as we did, how you would use the Modu, it's actually not that hard -- even if it doesn't have a full keypad. You can either flick through contacts that are pre-stored on your SIM or use an on-screen keypad to dial numbers.

Inserting the Modu phone into any jacket is very easy, as you can see here. Once inserted, the Modu phone acts as a slave and the jacket becomes the master. It's a fast switch over and Modu thinks it can make it faster, so that you barely notice any lag when you insert the Modu into a jacket.

Wondering how small a jacket can be? Check this one out -- it fit easily in the palm of our hand. According to Modu, you'll be allowed to choose three jackets on purchasing the phone, which means you can have a small one, large smart phone and music phone -- giving you more variety than any other device currently available. Of course, Modu's success will depend highly on how well these jackets perform compared to its counterpart standalone devices.