Project Ara and Fairphone 2 are modular smartphones that let you swap in different parts as you see fit, including displays, speakers, batteries, and cameras. Now that same modular design is being applied to a smartwatch.
BLOCKS is a modular smartwatch that’s now on Kickstarter. Just like Project Ara and Fairphone 2, BLOCKS will let you install modules of your choosing to make the smartwatch fit your needs. Some of the modules being shown by BLOCKS Wearables include an extra battery, a heart rate module, a GPS module, an NFC payments module, and an adventure module that includes sensors for altitude, pressure, and temperature. BLOCKS Wearables is also planning other modules like a SIM card module, fingerprint module, air quality module, flash memory module, and camera module.
Of course, you’ll need a core unit to attach those modules to. The BLOCKS Core features a round 1.35-inch 360x360 touchscreen, Snapdragon 400 processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, an accelerometer and a gyroscope, a microphone, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a 400mAh battery. The unit is IP67 rated for dust and water resistance.
When it comes time to attach modules, BLOCKS Wearables touts that its modules are hot swappable, meaning that you can attach and remove modules with the unit on. In terms of number of modules you can use at once, wearers with a wrist circumference greater than 150mm can use 4 modules at once, while wearers with smaller wrists can use 3 modules.
BLOCKS is being touted as an open platform that lets any develop modules for the wearable. BLOCKS Wearables has partnered with companies like Qualcomm and ARM, and it plans to offer a software development kit and module development kit “soon.”
Finally, BLOCKS is compatible with the iPhone 4s and up with iOS 8 and above. Android phones running 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich are up are also compatible. BLOCKS Wearables also plans to offer a BLOCKStore where you can get apps and modules.
If you’re interested in BLOCKS, you’ve got a few options available for backing the project. As of this writing, you can pay $275 to get a BLOCKS core and 4 modules, though there are only 659 available at that price. The regular price for that package is $285. There’s also a $445 limited option for a limited edition BLOCKS unit that’ll be engraved with your name and its number, and you’ll also get 4 modules right away and 3 more in the future. BLOCKS will also design a personalized watch face for you. BLOCKS is also offering package deals.
The BLOCKS modular smartwatch is currently expected to ship in May 2016. The wearable is cashing in on the recent trend of round smartwatches, and the prospect of being able to swap modules on your smartwatch certainly sounds appealing. No matter how enticing the BLOCKS and its modules are, though, perhaps the most important aspect of the device is how it feels to wear it. Because its on Kickstarter, you can’t actually try a BLOCKS on to see how its modules feel on your wrist before buying one, so interested parties will just have to pull the trigger and hope that BLOCKS is comfortable.
What do you think of BLOCKS? Will you be backing the project?