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Modular smartwatch now available on Kickstarter

By Liu Hongzuo - on 15 Oct 2015, 3:17pm

Modular smartwatch now available on Kickstarter

BLOCKS smartwatch, with all the modular parts that shapes the features of the wearable.

Typical smartwatches come with a fixed set of features you'll have to work with. The BLOCKS smartwatch is different, where uses a modular hot-swapping design for feature customization - each segment of the watch’s strap actually double as your preferred features. Each Module of the BLOCKS smartwatch has a dedicated function, and more Modules with other features are slowly being added to the BLOCKS main site as they develop more features for the modular smartwatch.

Features of the smartwatch's watch face, before any modules are equipped.

Before we look at what each Module can do, we must first look at the watch face’s in-built features and specs. The first Core available on the market comes with integrated Voice Control, Activity Tracking, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and it’s also touchscreen with haptic feedback. It can push phone notifications too, if you want it to.

 The specifications of the BLOCKS smartwatch's Core. the BLOCKS runs on a modified Android OS - not Google Wear.

The Core’s processor is none other than a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC, running on 513MB RAM with 400mAh battery capacity. The round display is 1.35-inch at a resolution of 360 x 360 pixels. It also comes equipped with a microphone and vibration motor, plus its own accelerometer and gyroscope. The BLOCKS smartwatch is also IP67 water-resistant, and it runs on a modified Android OS, designed by ex-Google Android developers.

The three colors available from the Kickstarter campaign.

The makers of the BLOCKS smartwatch said that this will not be the only Core available in the future. Other Cores can be either rectangular, or it uses e-ink instead of a color touchscreen, along with a variety of other different features, and these yet-to-release Cores will be compatible with existing Modules. At launch, you can choose to have an Onyx Black, Marble White, or Sunrise Red smartwatch.

Each module comes with its own microcontroller, therefore taking away the performance strain from the smartwatch's Core.

The Modules themselves are equipped with a low powered ARM Cortex M0+ microcontroller each. From here, the individual Modules can then ‘sandbox’ a preferred feature or sensor within, and can be controlled individually without straining the Core.

Each Module has its own feature. More options will come after Kickstarter, with the next wave projected to launch next year.

At launch, the Extra Battery Module (which boosts battery life by another 20% each), Heart Rate Module, GPS Module, an Adventure Module (that measures ambient temperature, altitude, and pressure), and an NFC module will be made available. Backers of the crowd-funded campaign will be asked to pick and mix the Modules they would like to have, and extra Modules can be purchased separately from their site as well.

Other Modules in development include a SIM Card Module, Fingerprint Module, an LED Module for cyclists or phone notifications, and a Programmable Button Module where you can program it to be a trigger for photography, or music. These Modules will be out next year.

Future Modules that are in development with no fixed release date includes modules that can detect air quality, stress levels, a Camera Module, and external memory storage for songs and photos. Developers can also order special dev Modules to create new types Modules as the product is open-source too.

You don't need to switch off or reset the smartwatch when equipping the modular strap parts - the features work once they're equipped.

As mentioned above, the Modules are hot-swappable – users can replace the Modules with the features they require in seconds, and the feature will work right away, with no need to reset the smartwatch.

BLOCKS smartwatch is compatible with iOS and Android OS.

The BLOCKS smartwatch is compatible with iOS 8.0 and later, with the iPhone 4S and newer Apple smartphones. It is also compatible with smartphones using Android 4.0+ or later. The team says that the smartwatch is known to be compatible with LG, Sony, Samsung, HTC, Xiaomi, and Motorola smartphones.

The smartwatch also comes with an iOS and Android app where you can customize the watch face and themes, and within it contains a store for users to buy more Modules or to trade old Modules with other users efficiently.

Each Core will start at US$195 (~S$268), and each Module will be going for US$30 (S$41). Currently, the early bird packages have already been redeemed, leaving us with a late bird package of one Core and four Modules at a price of US$275. The normal retail price for the same package would be US$285 (~S$392) after the Kickstarter campaign ends a month from now. The BLOCKS smartwatch ships to most countries, and that includes Singapore. Shipping starts in May 2016 for late backers.

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