Remember when modular smartphones were going to be the next big thing? Okay, so it wasn't that long ago, but after the initial buzz around Google's modular Ara smartphone, the tech giant recently decided to close the project down. LG went one step further and launched a modular phone, but speculation suggests it's going to ditch that approach for its next flagship.
Essential reading: Tag Heuer Connected Modular
The swappable, customisable smartphone hasn't really caught on, but that's not to say modular design doesn't have a place in the tech world and wearables, specifically smartwatches could be a perfect fit when it comes to offering customisation.
Read this: Does modularity work for wearables?
It's already starting to happen and we expect this won't be the last we hear of smartwatches that take a more modular approach wearables to make them all that more desirable to own. Here's where we're at right now.
What do we exactly mean by modular?
In tech and design terms, modular is essentially a approach where modules are used to form the building blocks of a product.
Who's making modular smartwatches then?
Speaking of blocks, there's one name that instantly springs to mind and that's Blocks. The crowdfunding project raised over $1.6 million to help bring to life the iOS and Android-friendly smartwatch. Blocks allows you to swap in a host of different modules that can add features to the watch like GPS, an optical heart rate monitor or NFC for contactless payments.
And you can buy it right?
Well, not yet. But after numerous delays the first batch of Blocks smartwatches started to ship at the turn of the year. You can pre-order one from the Blocks website, but there's no details on when it'll land if you didn't back the Kickstarter campaign.
There's speculation that we could see our first modular Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch in the not too distant future in the shape of a new Tag Heuer Connected smartwatch. The Tag Connected Modular will apparently offer customisable lugs and a custom automatic watch head module so you can switch between the smartwatch body and the traditional automatic movement body.
So are they straightforward to make?
Judging by the Blocks delays, perhaps not. While the team behind the modular smartwatch hasn't indicated what caused the delays, we're sure the sophisticated nature of getting the hardware right and the modules that enhance its usefulness to play nice can't have been easy. Especially when some of those additional modules are being made by other developers.
Is it just modular smartwatches?
The Nex Band, now renamed the Nex Evolution first came to our attention when it cropped up on Indiegogo in 2016. It claims to be the world's first hackable smartband. The programmable band features five 'Mods', which can be set up as one touch controls for music, smart home, selfies and even games.
When that's landing then?
That is still unclear, though the teams has been showing off a version of the device at CES in January and is planning to make further updates on the development of the smartband.
So there's not that many just yet?
No there isn't it, but all it takes is for one big brand to do it right and someone like Tag Heuer along with some help from Intel and Google could help spark it.
Is it a good fit for wearables?
The idea of greater customisation on a wearable device like a smartwatch makes a lot more sense than it does on a phone. People still like watches to be unique and stand out, so the modular approach offers more flexibility in terms of looks and personality. We definitely think it could be a winner.