The Current State Of Modular Devices – Blocks, PuzzlePhone, Moto Z, Nexpaq, And Others

Following the cancellation of Project Ara, modular smartphone news seems to have completely stopped, as a result of this you might be quick to think that modular devices have now become a thing of the past, but you are most certainly mistaken. Modular devices are still very much alive and in due time some pretty cool modular devices will hit the market.

Here Are Some Modular Devices That Are Still Generating News:

  • Blocks Modular Smartwatch
  • PuzzlePhone Modular Smartphone
  • LG G5 And Moto Z
  • Modular Smartphone Cases

Blocks Modular Smartwatch

Who would have thought that after all the hype that modular devices and in particular modular smartphones, have generated in the past, that it would be a modular smartwatch that would steal the spotlight? Well, that is exactly what has happened! In February of this year Blocks shipped their first set of beta devices out to testers and they have been tweaking the device and publishing updates very frequently on their Kickstarter page.

Beta testers of the Blocks Modular Smartwatch have reported that the physical structure of the device has held up well, these include connection between modules and the core of the device. The Amoled display of the core module has also been getting compliments from testers, which is pretty much what anyone should expect from any Amoled display.

But as is expected from beta devices, there were a few shortcomings; The electrical components of the module contacts were wearing out faster than expected, some minor hardware cracks were reported, and there were some software issues as a result of hardware defects. The Blocks team is wasting no time, and is hard at work correcting all reported issues. The Blocks modular smartwatch is expected to ship in Q3 of this year.

PuzzlePhone Modular Smartphone

Sadly the PuzzlePhone team continues to face an uphill battle to get funding for the device. In their last blog post the team explained “Our next close milestone in getting the next tranche of funding from the European Commission (EC) was in Vienna, March 27-30th, when the General Assembly of the sustainablySMART project took place and the authorities duly reviewed on our status and progress. The EC will issue a formal response within next weeks. If everything goes as we expect the second payment of the project will follow within next weeks. This will help to unlock and match further private investment for PuzzlePhone development.” We do wish the best of luck for the PuzzlePhone team.

Fighting hard to stay afloat amidst these tough times truly show what they are made of, but sadly without funding it’s almost impossible to bring a device to market. We’ll continue to keep our fingers crossed.

 LG G5 And Moto Z

Neither the LG G5 nor the Moto Z had enough charisma, and as a result fans of modular devices didn’t quite bite. With that being said, reports from both companies are actually quite the opposite. In Q4 of 2016 LG recorded a $224 million loss, its first company-wide loss for six years and it is largely blamed on the poor performance for the LG G5. But on the other hand, in November of 2016 Lenovo reported a sale of 1 million Moto Z handsets globally, making the Moto Z one of the most popular banded Motorola devices and the most successful modular smartphone to date.

Sadly however, the minor success of the Moto Z hasn’t done much for the modular nature of the device. It was launched with a handful of modules, and that’s pretty much it. We haven’t quite seen new modules being released for the device so it’s kind of hard to tell where it will go from here.

Modular Smartphone Cases

The race to build the top modular smartphone case started with three noteworthy companies: Moscase, Nexpaq, MODR. As of this writing only one of these companies is currently actively building a modular smarthone case and that company is Nexpaq.

Just like Blocks, Nexpaq ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign and is currently hard at work preparing their modular smartphone case. The team launched their beta products at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in March of this year and is currently working with 60 beta testers to fine-tune the device.

What the team has done so far is quite impressive, it’s almost as if they’ve taken exactly what Ara promised in terms of module capabilities, added it to a smartphone case, and made it available to current smartphone user.

Here are some examples of modules that Nexpaq is working on making available:

  • Air Quality
  • Alcohol
  • Speaker
  • Storage Backup
  • hotkey
  • laser
  • LED
  • Battery
  • Temperature
  • Dual sim
  • Wireless charging
  • Solar Charger
  • Carbon Monoxide sensor

Feel free to head on over to Nexpaq’s blog or Kickstarter page for more update on the project. I have high hopes for this one and can’t wait to see what the final product turns out to be.

The current state of modular devices is not what many of us had hoped it would be, we would all have loved to be swapping out smartphone modules at this time, but nonetheless, it’s good to know that we have companies still working hard and are determined to bring more modular devices to market.

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