Blocks Modular Smartwatch: A Look At The Smartwatch of the Future
Blocks Modular Smartwatch is as different as they come. There is literally nothing like it. If you have been waiting for a smartwatch that truly blows your mind, this might just be it.
Samsung has come in with its sleek round smartwatches, Huawei with its brilliant display, Garmin with its high-end smartwatch and Fitbit with its fitness-focused smart wearable. Even Google is planning its own splash with two smartwatches.
But none of them comes close to what Blocks is promising us; a modular smartwatch that comes with swappable and upgradable modules.
Remember the, sadly, failed Project Ara by Google?
Well, you could describe the Blocks Modular Smartwatch as the Project Ara of smartwatches. It is unlike anything else we have seen in the market.
Blocks Modular Smartwatch – The Concept
The concept behind Blocks Modular Smartwatch is to offer a highly customizable smartwatch to users. When you think of customizable, you probably picture removable straps, different colors and unique watch faces. For the Blocks Modular Smartwatch, customization means having a watch with the features you want. These extra features are made available through extra modules attached to the watch and forming part of the strap.
The Current and Upcoming Modules for Blocks
You will be able to attach an extra battery module, a heart rate monitor module, a GPS module and NFC payment module and so on. Essentially, you can create the watch you desire and one that fits your lifestyle.
If you are going to the gym, you put in a heart rate monitor module. If you are going biking, put in one for GPS tracking. If your battery is running low, just insert an extra battery module. There will also be an adventure module filled with sensors to track altitude, pressure and temperature.
Blocks says they plan more modules in the future including a camera module, a Sim Card module, a fingerprint module and an air quality module among many others.
The list is truly endless.
3rd Party Modules
What is even more exciting is that the company intends to come up with an open design. This means that other third parties can create their own modules and add them to the collection.
An important point to note is that only a maximum of 4 or 5 modules can fit on the watch at a single instance. So it’s all about removing the modules you do not need and inserting the ones you need at a certain moment. You can easily see why many are calling this the ‘last smartwatch you will ever need’.
For the Blocks Modular Smartwatch, customization means having a watch with the features you want.
It may sound like we are describing some science fiction movie here but the Blocks Modular smartwatch is actually real. You can see a video of it in action here:
The company behind this innovation started a campaign on Kickstarter and managed to raise $1.6 million dollars from over five thousand backers.
Below, we review some of the best features of the Blocks Modular Watch while also giving you the estimated launch and shipping dates as well as the pricing.
BLOCKS Smartwatch Design
Unlike Apple Watch or Samsung Gear S2 and S3, the Blocks Modular Smartwatch has not been designed with style as a priority. The focus was on making a modular smartwatch that actually works. From the latest reports, the watch does work and as a bonus, it does not look too bad.
From the pictures and videos available, the smartwatch is more stylish than expected. The main module is quite chunky at 12.5mm of thickness. With a 45mm face diameter and a 50mm length from one lug to the other this is not a dainty watch. It becomes even chunkier when you add on modules.
The modules themselves are also quite thick with some measuring almost 8mm. With the maximum number of modules, it can get quite big and heavy. For people, especially females, with smaller wrists you might want to keep the modules at just 2 or 3.
The watch features a steel casing in two different colors; silver and gun metal black. The display is covered by Gorilla Glass with a matte finish bezel. Overall, the design feels quite industrial and rugged. Maybe not perfect for everyone but all right for most people.
For a watch that had so much expected of it in terms of functionality, they did not do bat at all when it comes to the style.
1. Swappable modules
We have already explained this in the concept section. It is quite simple; you swap in the modules you need for a certain moment. Blocks has signed on hundreds of developers to create a variety of modules for the watch. While other smartwatches tout their app stores, this company boats of its upcoming BLOCKStore. It really is revolutionary.
Thanks to these modules, the smartwatch has a virtually limitless amount of features. With the BLOCKStore, you can access a wide range of functionality. While it will start with basic modules such as heart rate monitor and GPS, the company says more advanced modules such as camera and SIM will be available in the near future.
If the watch becomes a hit, expect even more modules from interested third parties. Just like there are numerous developers itching to create apps for WatchOS or Android Wear, there will be plenty eager to design modules for the smartwatch.
2. Core module
The heart of the watch is the core module. The watch face resembles any other smartwatch. In the absence of other modules, the core module is good enough to function on its own. It can show time, track your daily activity , receive notifications and so on. Essentially, it resembles a low-cost smartwatch.
The core module is also equipped with
- Bluetooth connectivity,
- haptic feedback (vibration),
- voice control (via a tiny microphone)
- and a 1-day (1.5 days max) 300mAh battery.
The company says that users will be able to buy different types and styles of core modules in the future. If the round one is not for you, you can get a rectangular one. Some core modules will have varying types of displays such as e-ink. Others could have bigger memories and so on.
3. Future proof
Blocks describes their Blocks Modular smartwatch as future proof. Apple and Samsung have to launch new Smartphones every year lest the future overtakes them. Most smartwatches are in a similar yearly sprint, becoming outdated almost as soon as they have launched. The Blocks Modular Smartwatch might be immune from these kinds of market cycles. This is because modules make up the watch. If a new technology comes out, they just need to pack into a module and add it to the watch.
Regardless of future technology, the watch will remain relevant without any need to keep updating it every few months. Of course it will still need updates to its display, material and perhaps RAM but not as often as current tech devices.
The core module has a 1.39-inch display with a 400X400 display. The AMOLED screen is crisp enough for comfortable viewing even in bright sunlight. Unlike Motorola’s smartwatches, there is no flat tire at the bottom to mar the perfectly rounded style.
The display is protected by a Gorilla Glass 4.0 for hardy protection. It will withstand a few bumps and scratches, something important for those who plan to go sporting with the watch on. The display has an always-on mode, meaning you can see the face anytime you look at it without having to press any wake-up button. The always-on mode is low in color (almost monochrome) to ensure the lowest power consumption when not in use.
5. Blocks OS
With all those modules connected, getting the watch to function with speed and intuition is a bit tricky. Blocks created a specialized operating system based on Android.
Cronologics OS, as it is called, allows users to navigate the various apps and features with ease and speed. The OS allows compatibility with both Android and iOS phones.
The main module comes with various complications, which allow you to access various apps and settings (weather, music, alarm, time etc.) quickly. Notifications are easy to access by pulling down from the top of the screen.
The main question is whether there will be enough apps available at the time of launch. Blocks might create their own apps and encourage developers to create others. Alternatively, the Cronologics OS might be ‘Androidy’ enough that it can accept Android Wear apps. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Fitness is a central feature of any smartwatch today. Brands like Fitbit and Garmin have built smartwatches based entirely on their fitness features. Apple has also stepped up their fitness offering, opting to include GPS to their latest Apple Watch.
But none of them can beat what the Blocks Modular smartwatch is offering. Because of the modular structure, you can get far more fitness features than you would on a normal smartwatch. The company has already announced a GPS Module, an adventure module (for pressure, altitude and temperature), a dedicated temperature module and a heart rate measuring module. The main module is equipped with various sensors including a gyroscope, a magnetometer and a 9-axis accelerometer.
Combined, all these should provide an excellent fitness platform even for serious fitness enthusiasts. For those days you plan on going for long hikes or runs, you can even add a battery module for extra juice. In the future, the company or third parties could come up with even more fitness modules such as a dedicated sleep tracker.
7. Battery life
Battery life has always been a touchy issue for smartwatch manufacturers. They want to add on as many features as possible without compromising the battery life too much and without resorting to an oversized battery that would not look good on the watch.
The Blocks Modular smartwatch has the same problem. The main module has a 1-day battery life, giving it the same limitations as other smartwatches. Thanks again to the modular design, there is a creative solution at hand; simply design an additional battery module.
The smartwatch comes with a 100mAh battery module that you can connect to the main module. This gives your 20 extra power, essential for those times you are far away from a power source. The only downside is that the battery module is quite long. If you use it, you can only add one other module to the watch.
8. Connectivity and compatibility
As mentioned, Blocks will be compatible with both Android and iOS phones even though its OS is Android-based. The only requirements are iOS 8 and later for iPhones and Android 4.0 and later for Android phones. The watch will require a partner app on your Smartphone for connectivity. The mobile app allows you to download apps for the watch, change notification settings and customize watch faces.
Additional connectivity features are bound to come in once extra modules are designed. For instance, we have already mentioned how the company is planning for a SIM module, allowing users to make and receive calls on the watch.
Pricing and Release Date
At the beginning of the Kickstarter campaign, the company had planned a May 2016 release. But this was later pushed September 2016 but only for backers who contributed. For anyone else excited to try out this revolutionary smartwatch, you may have to wait until December for the watch to start shipping.
Given the complexity of the smartwatch, we would not be surprised if the date gets pushed again. But from reports and previews, everything seems ready to go. As for the price, Blocks is offering preorders for $330. This includes the core module and 4 extra ones. Modules available at the moment include an extra battery, heart rate monitor, GPS, adventure, flashlight and a programmable module.
If you need more modules, you have to pay $35 for each. The company charges $11 for shipping within the United States and $15 to the rest of the world.
The Future of Smartwatches
If Blocks manages to pull off the modular smartwatch, they could decide the future of smartwatches. There will be no need to buy the newest smartwatches because everything will be available via modules. If it is a success, and we are really hoping it is, then it will be an existential threat to Apple, Samsung and other smartwatch brands.
Do you think it will be a huge success, maybe even spell trouble for other smartwatches? What modules would you like to see from the company or third parties? Leave your comments below.