Blocks Wearables is working on a modular smartwatch. We recently reported that the project is moving forward, hitting Kickstarter this summer, looking to crowd-fund and wing its way to the wrists of gadget fans everywhere.
We caught up with Blocks Wearables at a showcase of Bluetooth SIG innovations in London to get a closer look at the prototype of this modular smartwatch.
First up, the big news for Blocks is the partnerships. The watch is going to be powered with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset and is going to be manufactured by Compal (who make devices for Acer, Dell, and others). Getting these partnerships in place has been a big part of the development process to make this smartwatch a reality, Blocks Wearables told us.
Although what you see here are 3D-printed prototype casings and components, they give you a good idea of how this project is going to come together.
Blocks is based around a core watch face. Within this you have all the elements you'd normally find in a smartwatch - there's the display, a 400mAh battery and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset. As a standalone unit, the idea is that the Blocks core will do everything without the need to add anything extra.
It's going to be Android based, and importantly, it's not Android Wear. The reason for this is because Android Wear doesn't support the modular nature of Blocks. It's also the aim to have Android and iOS compatibility, so you'll be able to use this watch with your iPhone and we were also told that compatibility with Windows phone wasn't out of the question.
Not using Android Wear, of course, means that Blocks will be facing an app barrier. There will be a lot of software work done, but initially, all the apps you'll have access to will have been adapted by Blocks Wearable to make them run on the device.
Prototype strap components
There's the potential for confusion, but like Samsung's Tizen devices or LG's Watch Urbane LTE, it's really a case of making sure it does everything that other platforms do to keep customers happy, like supporting apps like CityMapper, RunKeeper and so on.
The innovation of Blocks is really in the modular nature however. The strap is made up of these blocks, each housing a different module. Typically, an average sized person will have four or five of these modules, potentially expanding the functionality of the watch as you add new elements.
There will be a GSM module, for example, meaning that Blocks won't need to be reliant on a companion device. There will be a GPS module and there will also be battery modules, so you can expand the endurance of your device.
The hardware that sits within the "blocks"
The idea is that you can assemble the watch you want. If you're going running, you can switch in the GPS. If you don't need that, you won't have to buy it. The secret is really in the connectors that Blocks is using that will let each module connect to the next, using pins for a secure link to the neighbouring module. There's still development work going on to refine this connection, to make it as user-friendly as possible.
Unfortunately we didn't get the chance to see it working. This is a very early prototype and sadly the display was broken. But flick through the photos for a close look at this modular watch in pieces.
Much of the experience will be governed by the software, however, so there's still plenty to discover about this modular marvel. Time will tell if it's set to shake up the smartwatch world.