BLOCKS Modular Smartwatch: Another Glimpse at the Future

blocks1My desire for–and prediction of–the coming “smartwatch revolution” that will take over smartphones entirely is not new to listeners of my tech podcast, Sovryn Tech, or readers here at the Dark Android Project. As I’ve said, I think even Microsoft is getting in on the game way ahead of schedule to hopefully not miss out on the next tech category like they dropped the ball with smartphones (and this is why they changed the name of their mobile strategy from “Windows Phone” to “Windows 10 Mobile”).

The other half of this revolution is “modularity”. While I think this is largely presently a bullshit gimmick when it comes to smartphones (which I’ve already written about extensively), I do think it’s a tech evolution that will come into its own in the mobile space in the coming years.

And just to show that it can be a part of the smartwatch future, a successful Kickstarter campaign has already happened based around the idea of a modular smartwatches (with an open version of Android on it) called “BLOCKS”.

In the video above, the demonstrator shows off a watch that rolled off of a Chinese assembly line in a near-final form, and according to the company’s press materials, it’s already using Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 2100 SoC especially designed for wearables. BLOCKS is based on a modified version of open source Android, but is not specifically running Android Wear.

The modules demonstrated so far include an extra battery, an LED flashlight, a heart rate monitor, a sensor module with temperature and barometric pressure, and a spacer with a normal watch band clasp. Modules can be plugged into the watch itself or each other in any order, and users can apply regular old watch straps if they so choose. The main body is steel, but modules use plastic casing.

As awesome as the video looks, admittedly the demonstrator doesn’t actually use any of the modules plugged into his watch. The closet thing we get to seeing the modules in operation is the fact that there’s a flashlight link on the powered-up unit. That being the case, it’s hard to recommend it as a pre-order for $330 (with four included modules). While, granted, I’m generally very skeptical of anyone actually shipping a released product from a crowdfund, BLOCKS is apparently scheduled to ship out to backers in October 2016.

SIDE NOTE: I am intrigued by Lenovo’s recent demonstration of a smartphone that can literally wrap around your wrist. While this is presently still in a very early engineering and design phase and not practical at the moment, the very fact that Lenovo is thinking along the lines of “smartphone on your wrist” proves–in my opinion–the fact that companies see the “smartwatch revolution” on the horizon, as well.

I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for it if it does release, and I’m totally onboard with it not using an official version of Android Wear. I’d be pleased if they actually allowed for the installation of the open-source Linux-in-a-smartwatch Asteroid OS, or perhaps just a more open version of Android Wear 2.0.

Either way, the future can be open, on your wrist, and modular. Bring it, baby.

Carpe lucem!