Now BLOCKS wants to bring a modular smartwatch to market, but first the developers are hoping to raise $250 thousand through a Kickstarter campaign to actually pay for the hardware.
For a pledge of $195 or more, you can request one of the first BLOCKS smartwatches that should ship around May, 2016.
At that price, your get a BLOCKS Core system and a basic watch strap. The Core module provides everything you need in a smartwatch, including a round color touchscreen display, WiFi, Bluetooth, a microphone for voice controls, a battery that should provide up to 1.5 days of run time, and sensors for activity tracking.
But what makes BLOCKS special are the modules. You can snap these onto a modular strap to add functionality to the watch. At launch, BLOCKS will offer these modules:
- Extra Battery Module – Increase battery power by 20 percent per module.
- Heart Rate Module – Use a sensor to track your heart beat.
- GPS Module – Get location-tracking without tethering to you smartphone.
- NFC Payment Module – Add support for contactless payments.
- Adventure Module – Add altitude, pressure, and temperature sensors.
BLOCKS will let you request a BLOCKS Core and any four modules for a pledge of $275 or more, although there are a limited number of early-bird specials with prices starting at $250.
The developers say the full retail price of the Core unit will be around $260, while a watch with four modules will retail for about $400.
You can string together four or five modules to create a wrist strap that’s between 140mm (5.5 inches) and 200mm (7.9 inches). The modules are hot swappable, which means you can take one off your wrist strap and replace with a different module without restarting the watch. Need extra battery life? You can pop out the heart rate or GPS module and pop in an extra battery.
Not impressed with the existing list of modules? BLOCKS is working on some more:
- SIM Module – Add support for cellular voice, text, and data on GSM networks
- Fingerprint Module – Add biometric authentication features.
- LED Module – Use your watch as a flashlight or receive colored notifications.
- Programmable Button module – Trigger custom watch functions with the press of a physical button.
Future modules could also bring additional storage space for music, RFID card support, or other features.
A modular system not only lets you choose the functions you want in a watch, but it also makes it easy to add or remove features in the future… or on the fly. Theoretically, it could also help you hang onto your watch longer: if the hardware starts to feel dated, you may be able to purchase new modules that add the functionality you’re missing in the future… assuming BLOCKS is still around in the future. That’s never really a given when you’re investing in a product developed by a startup and funded through a Kickstarter campaign.
That said, BLOCKS has been showing off concepts and prototypes for a while and has an agreement with Taiwanese OEM Compal to produce the first batch of watches, so there’s a decent chance the company will at least be able to deliver its first-generation product.
BLOCKS says its watches will run a modified version of Google Android (but not Android Wear), and will work with iOS and Android smartphones to display notifications, offer activity tracking, install custom watch faces, let you control your smartphone camera, initiate phone calls, and more. Additional apps will be announced closer to the time the product is ready to ship.