BLOCKS, the Project Ara for smartwatches, launches on Kickstarter


You thought a modular smartphone where you pick your own pieces like LEGOs was cool? Get a whiff of BLOCKS. This smartwatch promises to be personal to anyone and everyone who buys one.

It does so by using interchangeable modules which can be used to add different features to the smartwatch. The modules connect to each other in daisy-chain fashion to form a wrist strap. Here are just a few examples of things you could add to your smartwatch by swapping modules in and out:

  • Fingerprint scanner
  • SIM card
  • Extra battery
  • NFC
  • Camera
  • Heart rate sensor
  • GPS
  • Gesture Control
  • Additional storage
  • Haptic feedback
  • Air quality sensor
  • Temperature, altitude and pressure
  • LED light
  • Programmable button
  • Galvanic skin sensor

Modules are hot-swappable, so you can change things in and out without having to reboot the watch. Add a battery module if the watch is running dry and you can’t get to an outlet. Plug in the GPS module if you suddenly get lost.

blocks swap gif

And even if you don’t add any special modules, the core of the watch has plenty of features on its own. Bluetooth, a color display, WiFi, a vibration motor, an activity tracker and 1.5 days of battery come as standard. Even better is that there will be different cores available down the line — one with an e-ink display or more premium materials, perhaps — but they’ll all be compatible with the same BLOCKS modules.

blocks modules

The BLOCKS platform will be open, so developers will eventually be able to prototype and engineer their own BLOCKS module and sell them in a marketplace. The team already has a wide range of stuff planned on their own, but opening it up to everyone leaves open the possibility of an obscure module that someone may want but no one else has thought of.

blocks guts

Perhaps the least exciting aspect is that this watch doesn’t run Android, but the user experience they’re showing off does seem rather well-rounded, and should prove to be both simple and powerful enough to meet a wide range of needs. Apps will be offered through the BLOCKS app on an Android phone with 4.0 or higher, or iOS 8 on an iPhone 4S or higher. This app would also allow you to change watch faces and customize other bits of the experience.

So, opportunity to get one: it’s on Kickstarter. That comes with some level of doubt, but not so much that we wouldn’t pledge. The company has the support of big players like Qualcomm, ARM and Compal so it’s safe to say this won’t simply be another vaporware product.

blocks partners

You can pledge $195 for the core, or get a package of the core and 4 modules of your choice for as low as $275 on current early bird offers. If you miss the early bird option then the most you’ll pay for the standard core + 4 modules package is $285. The Kickstarter goal was only $250,000, and Blocks has already more than doubled that in pledges.

The company expects first shipments to be ready by May 2016, which is surprisingly quite close for a product as unique and ambitious as this. That just goes to show how long they’ve been working on this thing (work began in December 2013) and the level of dedication they’ve possessed to make it happen. Head to Kickstarter to pledge for one if you want to hop onto the train early, and join us over at to talk about it if it has your interest!

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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