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Here comes the modular mobile revolution

Mike Elgan | June 9, 2015
Modular gadgets are flexible, powerful, upgradeable and eco-friendly. What's not to love?

Blocks smartwatch
Like the modular smartphones and smartphone cases, the Blocks smartwatch has hot-swappable modules that add functionality to the watch. But what's different is that the modules link together in a chain to form the watch band.

Blocks Wearables, the company behind the Blocks smartwatch, was a finalist in last year's Make it Wearable contest held by Intel.

The Blocks has a core module that runs full-blown Android Lollipop (not Google's Android Wear smartwatch OS) and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset. The core has the watch face and it also supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It also has a motion sensor and a microphone. Blocks Wearables says the watch will pair and work with both Android phones and iPhones.

Modules are powered by ultra low-power ARM processors and connected to each other and to the main module via a proprietary connector design that looks a bit like an audio plug. The first module options will include a GPS module, an SMS module, a heart rate monitor, a battery and an NFC payments module.

Blocks is even trying to offer modular skins for the band, partnering with luxury menswear jewelry brand Tateossian for different styles of "shells" that cover the band modules.

Axel modular headphones
Axel modular headphones are designed around the concept that different styles of music require different kinds of headphones — or, at least, different "Soundscapes" (speaker units that can be swapped).

Axel is another Kickstarter project. The product will come in two lines — one called ID, and the other called FX (on-ear and over-the-ear, respectively).

Each comes with three "Soundscapes" called Soundscape Pure, Soundscape Deep and Soundscape Core, with each having different physical designs to enhance certain kinds of music.

The headphones can also be customized when you order with different headband inserts and other parts, which arrive as separate pieces that require assembling.

Putting it all together
The modular mobile revolution promises customization, flexibility, high performance, lower cost and eco-friendliness.


The first crop of devices in this category demonstrates that companies can approach the benefits of modularity from different ways, which enable different user benefits.

This is just the beginning of a new world of mobile devices that you can transform on the fly to have special capabilities or to last longer.

The modular concept won't go mainstream this year or next. But for hardcore tech fans like you and me, it starts this year in a food truck in Puerto Rico.


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