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Hands on: Nex Band

This modular wrist band controls your smartphone with IFTTT

The Nex Band may look like a toy, but it’s actually a clever, modular wearable that wants to make it simple to control your smart home. At least, that’s the start, because cool social and gaming features are coming to makes sure you stay addicted. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the Nex Band. It started life more than a year ago, when it was more aimed at kids. Now it’s gone way beyond its original idea, and Nex is sensibly building a strong community first, before it starts exploiting the social potential of the band.

Indiegogo campaign

At the beginning of April 2016, the Nex Band was made available through crowdfunding site Indiegogo, where the band costs $90 if you’re fast, or $100 if you miss out on the earliest models. A Founder’s edition can also be purchased, which comes with a unique clip-on Mod unique to the campaign. Other options include the option to buy the Nex Band with a Philips Hue smart lighting system.

The band is apparently already in production, but it’s noted there is still work to be done on the water-resistance, and long-term durability of the joints and glue used. However, it’s confident the first production run will be satisfactory. Should you back the project, then deliveries are scheduled to begin in June, provided no delays occur.

How the band works

The band houses five small modules, called Mods, which each have a color display, touch sensitivity, and a programmable function. They’re assigned this function using an IFTTT-style recipe that Nex calls Hacks in the accompanying app. At its most basic, these Hacks will activate a function on your phone with a single tap. More complex tasks like opening a garage door, or adding a character, map, or item to a compatible game are also possible. Each Mod recognises a single, double, or triple tap, plus they act as one for swipes, or even when covered with your palm. The control possibilities using the Nex Band seem restricted only by your ability to memorize the combinations you’ve assigned to particular functions.

Related: Best mobile accessories from CES 2016

Initially, Nex is focusing on the smart home and phone control potential. The company is hoping to attract hackers and makers to start using the Band. Once a community grows, it’ll introduce social features, and finally, Mods with game integration, or firms will be able to make their own branded Mods. For example, Disney could sell Mods designed for Tsum Tsum, or Gameloft could sell Mods containing add-on items. It’s a great idea, and the Nex Band is fun, but this is a long way off and depends on a strong community wearing the Nex Band before it happens at all.

The Band itself is reminiscent of the Nike Fuelband, with a curvy, solid body covered in a soft-touch rubbery material. The Mods are plastic with pogo pins underneath, and can be attached to the Band either way around, so there will be no annoying instances where you try and clip one in and it does not work. Although the Nex Band has taken a while to develop, the wait appears to have been worth it. The Band is IPX6 water resistant, and Nex has partnered with IFTTT already, so existing recipes can be used — opening up the possibilities instantly. The app makes creating your own Hacks for the band simple anyway. It’s a few taps to set up, and it worked consistently during my brief demo.

It’s quite large, and the Mods make the top thicker than the average watch, so squeezing it under a tight shirt cuff will be a struggle. The flashing colors look fun, but probably won’t appeal to business-types. They do look a bit like left over designs from when the band was aimed at kids. The Mods clip onto the Band tightly and you’d have to knock it hard to dislodge them. The charger is built into the band and the battery will last on average about a week.

Before the Indiegogo campaign, it was possible to pre-order the Nex Band  for $150 with five Mods. Whether Nex’s ambitious plans come to fruition depends on the Band’s popularity, because without anyone wearing it, the social and gaming features will be a hard sell.

Highs

  • Fun design
  • IFTTT compatiblity
  • Swappable modules
  • Easy to use Hacks

Lows

  • Will require a large community to succeed
  • Chunky body

Updated on 04-04-2016 by Andy Boxall: Added in news of the Nex Band Indiegogo campaign