Earlier this year, a company called Blocks Wearables announced intentions to build its own modular smartwatch called Blocks. Here at CES, the company is showing off some very early prototypes and mock-ups of what Blocks might eventually look like and how it could work.
Blocks Wearables was exhibiting at Intel's massive booth on the CES show floor as one of the participants in the company's "Make it Wearable" competition — and while we couldn't actually get a sense for what using the Block will be like, we did get a good idea of how the whole modular smartwatch concept could play out.
Essentially, the heart of Block is the watch face — that specific module will contain the screen and most of the hardware guts. You'll be able to extend on the Block's basic capabilities with smaller, add-on modules that get linked to that main watch face Block, with those extensions forming the watch band.
A cool idea, but nothing more just yet
Out of the box, Block will essentially mimic the functionality of Pebble — you'll be able to get notifications from your phone, do some basic things like control audio, and also do some motion tracking. But you'll also be able to buy six additional add-on modules that'll greatly enhance the watch's capabilities. You'll be able to add extended battery links, GPS tracking, heart rate monitoring, a microphone, a SIM card slot, and a module that lets you make contactless payments (how that one will work is unclear at this point).
The plan is to launch the Block on Kickstarter in June, and it says the watch will ship by the end of the year — the basic watch face component will cost about $150, and add-on modules will be priced between $20 and $40. The company says it'll offer packages with varying levels of capability ranging in price from $200 to $300.
Judging from what we saw at CES, Blocks Wearables has a lot of work to do between now and the end of the year — the one prototype they had wasn't running because its battery was dead, but even from a physical perspective it wasn't anything you'd want on your wrist. But the idea of being able to customize your watch right out of the gate is a compelling one, as is the ability to update its guts as time goes on — we'll be keeping our eyes out for the Kickstarter campaign.
Update, 4:30PM ET: This story originally identified Phonebloks as the manufacturer of the Block watch; the company making it is Blocks Wearables. We apologize for the error.