We first told you about the Blocks modular smartwatch earlier this year when we reported that the company had been in talks with Google about a potential partnership with the Ara team for cross-platofrm modules. A few months have passed since Blocks demoed their prototype at CES in January, and today they’re out to show the world the latest developments — and in just a few months, it looks like they’ve come a long way…
At Computex Taipei 2015, Blocks Wearables announced many more details about the modular wearable, and mentioned that it will be kicking off a crowdfunding campaign later this year — more specifically “summer.” The company also announced that the version that will be shown off for crowdfunding is going to have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 series processor and will run a version of Android Lollipop.
Notably, this is not an Android Wear device. The modularity and deeper functionality of a smartwatch like this wouldn’t be compatible with the cut-and-dry flavor of Android that is usually found on Android watches. Rather, Blocks plans to extend the functionality of this device beyond a typical smartwatch to allow many different kinds of niche modules to be added. Additionally, Blocks plans to make this device compatible with iOS as well as Android smartphones.
“The optimizations allow for longer battery life, a custom graphical layer for a circular display, and the ability to hot-swap modules without having to power the device off,” Blocks says about their choice to use a flavor of standard Android Lollipop over Android Wear.
Most interestingly in today’s news, perhaps, is that this device seems to be moving from a simple concept and prototype to potentially being a real product (assuming it’s successfully crowdfunded, of course). Blocks says that they’ve already secured manufacturing deals with Taiwan-based Compal, one of the largest manufacturers of laptops, smartphones, and smart devices in the world. Also, the company says it has partnered with Tateossian, a British fashion brand, to create customizable shells for each module (much like Ara).
You can learn more at the company’s website, and be sure to check out the gallery of images below showing off the current prototype.
Blocks Wearables Announces Collaboration with Qualcomm on First Modular Smartwatch
—Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and Running Android OS, Blocks Will be Released in a Crowdfunding Campaign this Summer —
TAIPEI — June 2, 2015 — Blocks Wearables, the company behind the modular smartwatch, today announced more details around its first device, which will be released in a crowdfunding campaign later this summer. The announcement was made at Computex Taipei 2015 during a Qualcomm wearables keynote. The device is powered by a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 400 processor and will run the latest Android Lollipop OS.
Circular color display
Blocks Wearables’ first watch face will use a circular colour touchscreen. The watch face, also known as ‘the core module’, will include a number of other features such as the processor, Bluetooth, WiFi, motion sensor, microphone and the main battery. This alone enables the core module to perform most functions of current smartwatches, such as receiving notifications from a smartphone, activity tracking and controlling the watch via voice commands.
Qualcomm processor based on ARM CPU
Blocks smartwatch will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, which powers the majority of Android Wear smartwatches available today. The processor offers a balance of power and performance with quad-core ARM® Cortex® A7 CPUs, Bluetooth/WiFi connectivity and support for GPS, GSM and NFC. The combination of these features allows Blocks to extend functionality of the smartwatch with a variety of snappable modules that can support location tracking, cellular connectivity, contactless payments and other sensors. This will help to make it the most versatile wearable available.
Quote from ARM Vice President
“The wearables market is in an incredibly exciting phase and will see a diverse range of forms and functionalities. Their one commonality is that all will require ultra-low power intelligence to ensure battery life is attractive to end users,” said Ian Ferguson, vice president, segment marketing, ARM. “Blocks’ modular approach is a great example of the creativity and innovation that is possible on the ARM architecture.”
Blocks will run an optimized Android Lollipop operating system and will allow connectivity to both iOS and Android smartphones. The optimizations allow for longer battery life, a custom graphical layer for a circular display, and the ability to hot-swap modules without having to power the device off.
The company has gone one step further to provide modularity in both features and visual appearance. BLOCKS has partnered with Tateossian, a British jewellery and accessories brand, to create customisable removable shells for each module, allowing a mix of different colours, textures and materials. With removable shells, users will be able to change the appearance of their watch to suit individual tastes.
British born, Tateossian is a luxury handcrafted jewellery and accessories brand with a unique design ethos. As a leading menswear jeweller, Tateossian, continues to push boundaries constantly reflecting and reinterpreting trends in fashion.
Blocks has signed a manufacturing deal with Compal, one the world’s largest manufacturers of laptops, smartphones and smartwatches. Compal Electronics is a Taiwanese original design manufacturer (ODM), handling the production of consumer electronics for a variety of clients around the world, including Acer, Lenovo, Dell, Toshiba, and HP. It is the second-largest contract laptop manufacturer in the world (behind Quanta Computer).