Xiaomi Patents a Modular Smartphone with Interchangeable Cameras

Jermaine Smith (Concept Creator) | Let’s Go Digital In a play on smartphone design that would make them much more like traditional cameras, Xiaomi has patented a modular smartphone that would accept interchangeable nodes, each one with different functions. Xiaomi is no stranger to unusual smartphone designs. Just a few days ago, PetaPixel reported on […]

Xiaomi Patents a Modular Smartphone with Interchangeable Cameras
Jermaine Smith (Concept Creator) | Let’s Go Digital

In a play on smartphone design that would make them much more like traditional cameras, Xiaomi has patented a modular smartphone that would accept interchangeable nodes, each one with different functions.

Xiaomi is no stranger to unusual smartphone designs. Just a few days ago, PetaPixel reported on the recently resurfaced Xiaomi patent for a rotating under-display camera, and the company continues its work on innovative designs for future smartphone models like a modular smartphone patent that has been rendered by

Modular smartphones are not a completely new concept, but they have yet to gain widespread appeal. For example, the Dutch company Fairphone already sells modular smartphones, with a heavy focus on the environmental aspect. The available interchangeable parts, like the camera, speaker, or the top, middle, or bottom modules are meant to make smartphone electronics last longer and become easier to repair, while also using recycled materials to manufacture them.

Xiaomi’s own modular smartphone idea revolves around three modules, which have been mocked up by the Dutch graphic designer Jermaine Smith from Concept Creator, to help visualize what the patented idea might look like.

Jermaine Smith (Concept Creator) | Let’s Go Digital

The first module in the upper part of the device contains the motherboard and the camera system, while the second module, which is the middle part, houses the battery. The bottom of the phone carries the third module, although it is unclear what functions this module would have.

Let’s Go Digital reports that at least two modules contain a screen, and according to the official documentation, they can be connected together to form a large panel with no visible separation in-between, giving users access to a full-screen design. The said modules are attached using a rail system.

Let’s Go Digital

In the patent, two types of rear camera modules are mentioned: a square-shaped one with three cameras and a flash and a single vertical column that has four cameras. Let’s Go Digital suggests that it’s likely the square-design camera has a periscopic zoom.

In regards to the selfie camera, it is currently unclear what type of camera would be implemented for this design, with both a punch-hole camera and an under-screen one as possible choices.

Jermaine Smith (Concept Creator) | Let’s Go Digital

The innovative brand’s motivation to pursue modular smartphones is similar to the aforementioned Fairphone: it makes replacing parts more cost-effective, in addition to reducing unnecessary waste, which has been a concern for many brands who have stopped supplying new purchases with chargers, for example. It is yet to be seen if Xiaomi will implement the patent in its future smartphone models and what functions each interchangeable module will have but it does bring additional user customization to the table.

Unfortunately, modular tech devices have not had a particularly successful history. Ricoh tried it with the GXR interchangeable sensor system — which has since been discontinued — and while a new startup is attempting a similar strategy with laptops, previous attempts from Intel, Compute Card’s Ghost Canyon NUC, and Alienware all failed. Specifically in smartphones, Motorola tried a modular back system called Moto Mods, which also did not last long.

Xiaomi’s patent can be read in full here.

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MoMA Wants Your Photos for Free, Perpetually, and ‘Any Purpose’

The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is soliciting photographers to share photos on Instagram based on monthly themes. Those who participate will be featured on the MoMA’s social channels, but also give the museum significant rights to use the photos “for any purpose.” In honor of National Photography Month and its new exhibition Fotoclubismo: […]

MoMA Wants Your Photos for Free, Perpetually, and ‘Any Purpose’

The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is soliciting photographers to share photos on Instagram based on monthly themes. Those who participate will be featured on the MoMA’s social channels, but also give the museum significant rights to use the photos “for any purpose.”

In honor of National Photography Month and its new exhibition , the museum is encouraging photographers to “get creative with a new photo challenge.” It is based on the Fotoclubismo idea and on the achievements of São Paulo’s Foto-Cine Clube Bandeirante (FCCB), which the musuem describes as “a group of amateur photographers whose ambitious and innovative works embodied the abundant originality of postwar Brazilian culture.”

Called the MoMA Photo Club, the museum states that each month starting in May — for an undisclosed period — it will offer a new theme and host, kicking off with mountain climber and environmental activist Conrad Anker with the theme “Abstractions from Nature.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by MoMA The Museum of Modern Art (@themuseumofmodernart)

The museum is calling on anyone to share their “abstractions from nature” by taking “a closer look at the world around you” and capture it from a new perspective. In return for submissions, the MoMA says that it will use those photos on its social channels, the MoMA website, and on digital screens in New York City subways.

We can’t wait to see what you make. Share your photos with us using #MoMAPhotoClub. Select photos will be featured on our social channels, the MoMA website, and on digital screens in select New York City subways.

But the fine print on MoMA’s website explains that those who use the hashtag would be giving up significantly more of their image rights. This would not immediately be noticed by those who only saw MoMA’s Instagram post above or did not read the lightly-colored fine print on the announcement page which is not easily navigable to from Instagram.

By tagging photos using #MoMAPhotoClub, you grant The Museum of Modern Art (“MoMA”) (and those authorized by MoMA) a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual, sublicensable, non-exclusive license to publicly display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivative works of such photos, in whole or in part (including, but not limited to, any associated captions and handles), in any media now existing or later developed, for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and promotion, and inclusion on MoMA’s website and social media channels.

Not only can photos be used in the way that MoMA describes on Instagram posts advertising the event, but the museum states that using the hashtag gives them implicit right to use that photo in perpetuity, sublicense it, and use it “for any purpose” including commercially which includes advertising and promotion.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by MoMA The Museum of Modern Art (@themuseumofmodernart)

“It’s certainly an overreach and a rights grab,” Mickey H. Osterreicher, the General Counsel for the National Press Photographer’s Association tells PetaPixel. “It’s unfortunate that once again that far too many people devalue photography. What is wonderful, obviously, is that certainly because everyone has a cell phone and therefore everyone has a camera, everyone can take pictures, but that doesn’t make everyone a photographer — but that also doesn’t mean that their images don’t have value.”

From MoMAs’s Photo Club blog post.

Osterreicher says that it is particularly disheartening to see that this claim of rights was made by a museum, an organization that is supposed to recognize creative work and artists.

“You’ve got a museum that’s supposed to value creative work, whether it’s by an artist with a paintbrush or a sculter with chisel, or a photographer with a pro camera or even just an iPhone,” he says. “We all recognize some incredible images that are made hundreds if not thousands of times a day by people using their iPhones and it’s very creative work and it certainly has value. To make it seem very open and friendly while in the meantime the fine print says that you’re granting all these rights not only for them to use them, but to use them into perpetuity to be able to sublicense them and to be able to use them for advertising and promotion is very disappointing.”

Osterreicher says that he doesn’t think it’s likely that the MoMA would ask painters to send in their paintings, so why it believes that asking the same of photographers is fine hurts the medium greatly. He references the case where Andy Warhol took and used a photographer’s photo as the basis for his work, and how Warhol seemed to believe that he was doing the photographer a favor by using her work beyond the scope of the license. Osterreicher describes it as a kind of artistic “elitism” that MoMA’s alleged overreach here is another symptom of.

“Clearly if there wasn’t value to these images, why would they be asking for them and these rights?” he poses.

The MoMA did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Osterreicher encourages all photographers, regardless of camera or medium, to always review the fine print from any organization where photos are solicited to assure that the value of photography is upheld.


Image credits: Background of header photo licensed via Depositphotos.

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