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January 9, 2018

Swappable modules make the Blocks smartwatch a puzzle you’ll want to work out

by John_A

It has been two years since we last took a good look at a very early version of the Blocks modular smartwatch — with the watch itself being talked about for even longer than that — and now it’s finally being properly announced. Blocks is very different from any other smartwatch out there, not just because of the switchable modules that enhance its functionality, but also because it uses full Android 8.0 Oreo rather than Android Wear 2.0. The Blocks Core watch still does everything you’d expect from a smartwatch, plus a whole lot more.

Suitable for Android and iOS smartphones, the Blocks Core will track your fitness, deliver notifications, show call information, run stand-alone apps, and supports If This Then That (IFTTT) custom alerts. Rather than Google Assistant, the Blocks smartwatch has Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant on board. The circular screen measures 1.4-inches and has a 400 x 400 pixel resolution, while the chip inside the watch is a MediaTek MTK6580M with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of memory. The battery has a 350mAh capacity.

Functionality is extended by adding modules to the watch’s stainless steel body, each of which features a different sensor. It’s a sensible approach to wearables. Not everyone will want GPS,for example, as it’s an expensive and battery intensive component. Those that do want it can still buy the watch, then buy the module, and even then remove it to conserve battery life on the days it’s not needed.

The GPS module is joined by an environment module that contains sensors for temperature, air pressure, humidity, and altitude. Another module adds a torch with strobe and notification features, and another adds a heart rate sensor. Finally, a versatile smart button module can be customised to support various functions. This is just the start, and others modules are planned including an air quality monitor, NFC, a UV sensor, and a stress and sweat sensor. These are being created using a hardware development kit, which allows other companies to create their own Blocks modules.

Blocks started off as a crowdfunded project, and the first versions of the watch are being delivered to backers now. For anyone that didn’t back the crowdfunding campaign, the Blocks Core can be pre-ordered for $260, but this doesn’t include any of the modules. A pack containing the first four modules can be pre-ordered for an additional $140, bringing the complete Blocks package to $400. The good thing is, if you don’t want to buy the modules now, you don’t have to get them.

The fashion industry has recently taken ownership of the smartwatch space, bringing us more stylish and better-looking wearables for our wrists. The Blocks Core takes the smartwatch in a more technical and feature-rich direction, but judging by the images, not at the expense of style. The Blocks Core has the potential to be the Android-based smartwatch that finally bridges the gap between attractiveness and geek appeal.

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