The folks at BLOCKS unveiled a concept for a modular smartwatch in 2014, launched a crowdfunding campaign a year and a half later, and eventually raised more than $1.6 million from more than 5-thousand backers.

But according to the latest update on the BLOCKS Kickstarter campaign, the team’s dream of a modular smartwatch platform is officially dead. After running out of money, the company’s remaining assets will be liquidated.

The update is only visible to backers of the campaign, but several redditors have received emails about the liquidation process, including one user who shared a letter about the liquidation process.

It’s not surprising to see an ambitious crowdfunded hardware project end in failure. BLOCKS never struck me as an outright scam so much as a project from inexperienced developers who may have underestimated the amount of work that would go into making a commercially viable product based on the original concept.

I did get a chance to check out a prototype of the BLOCKS system in 2018, including a core smartwatch and a series of modules that could be strung together to make a wrist strap. Each module could add functionality to the watch, with modules including:

  • Battery
  • Heart rate monitor
  • GPS receiver
  • Environment sensor
  • LED flashlight
  • Programmable smart button

The idea was that customers would be able to choose just the features they wanted. Don’t need GPS in your smartwatch, but want extra-long battery life? Then buy a bunch of battery modules.

Since the modules were also designed to be swappable, you could buy the full set, but leave modules at home if you didn’t anticipate needing them.

But not only was the idea of building a modular hardware system ambitious, but the BLOCKS team also had to develop custom software because none of the existing offerings would support the company’s swappable components. So BLOCKS developed its own Android-based operating system, which it likely presented its own challenges (and might have made the watch a little less attractive to potential customers).

Last year the company announced to backers that after spending $2.8 million, the company was looking for new revenue sources. It appears that never panned out.



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1 Comment

  1. Gotta hand it to Motorola. Google couldn’t get Project Ara off the runway. LG only sort of launched their half-hearted modular phone. Blocks would have been nice because the reason I don’t own a smart watch is because regular charging is absurd to me. The more batteries the better, and if a whole band of batteries were swappable and independently chargeable, that might just snag me.

    But Motorola got 4 generations of modular phones off the ground. The mods were not as diverse as you’d like, but there were useful offerings among them. The Z3 was a bit of frankenflagship with a mid range screen attached to a year old chipset. The Z4 is actually the Z4 play in all but name, an outright midrange phone. So the line appears to be petering out and all but over unless they launch a moto g pro with mod support or verizon gets one more sacrificial Z to use for the 5G marketing. But it was an epic effort.

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