Want your garage to automatically open when you get home? Or the coffee pot to turn on when your alarm goes off? You can configure these actions with various smart home appliances, or with the help of third-party services like IFTTT (If This, Then That). Mighty Cast is yet another company offering a solution, but it has a dedicated wearable that acts like a personalized remote.
The Nex Band Evolution is a Bluetooth-connected wristband that features five “mods,” the company’s name for its tappable, LED-illuminated buttons. These mods can be programmed — or “hacked” as Mighty Cast calls it — via a free mobile app for iOS and Android to execute any number of actions; from opening your garage door to controlling music playback, or kicking off an IFTTT applet (formerly recipe).
The $80 band is also a notifications ninja, using a combination of light and vibration to inform you of phone calls, Instagram likes, and just about any other notification you’d get on your phone. There’s an activity tracker too, for those interested in doubling it as a fitness band.
It’s quirky, to say the least. For tech-savvy people disappointed by the lack of customization and creativity offered by other wearable gadgets, the Nex Band Evolution is a fun, somewhat inexpensive way to exercise greater control of our increasingly connected lives. But its poor construction, lack of a display, and weak activity tracking make it tough to recommend. Let’s take a closer look.
The Nex Band Evolution’s main attraction is the ability to assign functions to each of the band’s five mods. Mighty Cast calls these functions hacks, but there’s no coding involved. Hacks are created using the app’s “When/Do” conditions. Choose the mod you want to hack, decide if you want the function to be triggered by a double-tap or a long press (the “when”), and then pick from a generous list of preinstalled functions (the “do”).
It’s easier to just use a smartwatch where you can see the content of the notification.
If you’ve ever used the popular IFTTT service, you’ll find it instantly familiar. “If I arrive home, turn on the lights,” is an example of an applet you can configure with IFTTT. Granted, you need to have a supported smart bulb.
You can actually access all IFTTT applets via the Nex Band app, as an incentive for IFTTT users. It increases the amount of actions you can execute tenfold, because of the robust support IFTTT has garnered over the years.
But the Nex Band goes a step further and supercharges what you can configure. For every “when,” you can add additional conditions, like a location or a specific time of day. Similarly, “Dos” can be a single function like turning on a light, or multiple functions, like turning on a light and playing music. For example, if you’re home and double tap a mod, the Band can then send an email to your parents telling them you’re home safe, and it can turn on the bedroom lights at the same time.
We love that these extra layers provide such a granular level of control — it’s the expert mode that is missing from so many smart devices. Without IFTTT, you can do things like control your smartphone camera, control music playback, make a fake call, send preset messages, trigger an action when you arrive somewhere, and more through the band. Will is ever hit mainstream popularity? Likely not, as it all requires a decent amount of configuration, and you can perform a bulk of these actions on your smartphone with the IFTTT app.
Not to mention some of the quirks with the Nex Band. Figuring out what’s going on between the app and the band isn’t straightforward. Though each mod can display any color of the rainbow through its LED, all five have a fixed color. If you’re wearing the Nex on your left wrist, with the power button facing your hand, the mods are (from top to bottom) green, blue, purple, red, and orange. But when you’re in the app, not only are mods often depicted as white circles, they’re arranged horizontally, leaving you guessing which one belongs to which mod. It’s unnecessarily vague.
It’s also difficult to know if you’ve successfully initiated a hack by double-tapping or long-pressing. My finger effectively covers a mod when pressing, and it’s not easy to see the LED flash in response to your touch. A quick haptic buzz from the band’s vibration motor to confirm an activated hack would be a welcome addition. We sent our feedback to Might Cast CEO Adam Adelman, and he said these two issues will be addressed in a future firmware update.
Easy-to-use app, plenty of customization
The Nex Band app’s clean interface makes creating, editing, or deleting hacks easy, and the availability of pre-built “featured” hacks is good for new users who simply want to get their device up and running.
Setting up and pairing it with an iPhone 6 was effortless — even easier than with other Bluetooth products like the Pebble, or wireless earbuds. There’s an overwhelming number of options once you get into the hacks and notification menus, but the step-by-step process of working with these features means there’s only ever a few things on the screen at one time. Moving back and forth through the steps is simple, and intuitive.
There are almost infinite options when it comes to customizing your notifications. Every app you care about, whether it’s Snapchat, Facebook, or your native email app, can have its own vibration and/or light pattern. Want your Instagram likes to trigger an insistent set of vibrations and rainbow light show? Done. Want text messages to simply vibrate a little and show no LEDs? No problem.
Whether this is actually useful for anyone — since you’d have to remember and attribute light patterns and vibrations to an app — is up in the air. A lot of these functions are hardly new, as you can perform the same configurations for phones with LEDs with apps like Light Manager. It’s easier to use a smartwatch, or a band with a display where you can see the content of the notification.
Lackluster fitness tracking
The Nex Band Evolution includes an activity tracker too, though this is being generous. In reality, it’s just a step counter, which can be configured to a specific daily step goal, much like Nike’s original Fuelband. Fans of Fitbit, Misfit, and other trackers will be disappointed by the limited scope of this feature, but there’s reason for hope.
Mighty Cast wants to offer a full Software Development Kit (SDK) for the Nex if the company can build a strong user community. That’s a big if, so don’t expect third-party support anytime soon.
Poor build quality
The Nex Evolution comes in two color choices — an understated, all-black design, and a flashy black, white, and gold combo. Its curved body and one-size-fits-all integrated rubber band make for a comfortable fit. It’s also light at 27 grams; you could easily forget you’re wearing it at all.
At about 13mm tall, it’s a lot chunkier than a Fitbit Flex, but compared to some of the Android Wear smartwatches we’ve seen, it’s downright petite. It’s also water resistant, though the company recommends you still take it off for swims and showers.
There are two main drawbacks to Evolution’s build: First, the materials look cheap, especially the gold-tone polycarbonate housing. Worst of all, there are visible mold seams and imperfections in the build quality. This extends to the band as well as our test unit had a rough edge at the end near the clasp.
Second, because the five mods are fused together, there’s a series of small grooves that act as visual and tactile separators. They look fine at first, but they quickly turn into dirt traps — collecting grime and grit. You’ll need to constantly keep these grooves clean.
Mighty Cast claims about three days for battery life, and so far that feels right, though we suspect heavier use will reduce it to two days. That’s not bad for a wearable, but we are not fans of the weird charger that comes with the Nex Band Evolution. It’s a small, claw-like chunk of plastic with two charging contacts on the top surface and a micro-USB port on the side for connecting the included USB cable.
To charge the Nex Band, you need to orient the charger so that the end with two small prongs lines up with the matching holes on the underside of the band. You then press the opposite side of the charger until it clicks into place.
Much like the Nex itself, the charger looks and feels like it was made with low cost as the primary consideration. We would have preferred if the main body of the Nex Band contained the USB port, or a magnet-based latching system for the charger, instead of the flimsy plastic claws.
No time display
There’s a lot of fun stuff you can do with the Nex Band Evolution. Nex Beatbox, for example, turns the band’s mods into drum pads; Camera Control assigns shutter, swap camera, and zoom options to the five mods; and hacks can make use of location data, and be configured to send emails, texts, or even phone calls.
But for all of these capabilities, the Nex Band leaves out one function we really need — the ability to see the time. For most folks, a wrist wearable will take the place of their watch. Few will want to wear a watch and a smart band like the Nex, but without a clock display, Nex users will be forced to wear both, or haul their phone out of their pocket or purse — which defeats the biggest benefit of a connected smart band.
Warranty information, and pricing
Mighty Cast offers a standard one-year warranty on the Nex Band Evolution, along with a 60-day return policy on unused products in their original packaging.
The band costs $80 and is available on the company’s website.
While the Nex Band offers great options to automate your life, a lot of its features can be executed by just installing the IFTTT app. Its poor build quality is unfortunate, and the lack of a clock makes it a lot less useful.
The DT Accessory Pack
Are there better alternatives?
Yes. Your smartphone. IFTTT, which the Nex Band also relies on a lot, is available on Android and iOS. You can make a lot of the same automation happen by just using this app, though you’ll be missing the ability to control things with physical buttons.
You can also go for a smartwatch like the Huawei Watch 2 or the Apple Watch Series 2, as they both offer far more useful notifications you can actually read interact with. There’s also the Tapdo, which lets you assign various functions to your fingerprints. It’s a little more expensive, and the Kickstarter hasn’t been fully funded yet.
How long will it last?
We have concerns about the overall quality of the Nex Band Evolution. Its plastic and rubber build are not high quality, which could indicate a shorter lifespan especially under heavy and active use.
That said, Mighty Cast seems responsive to users, and is determined to embrace third party developers. The Nex app, with its elegant, simple interface, suggests that this is not a whimsical product by a team that is about to move on to the next big idea, leaving its users high and dry. While you can expect about two years or more of software support, we’re not sure the band itself will last as long.
Should you buy it?
No. If you’re an IFTTT pro user, who has been waiting for a smart wearable that can be configured to perform even more functions from your wrist, the Nex Band Evolution may be what you’re looking for, and it’s affordable at just $80. But for most of us, IFTTT is an excellent, free alternative that can do a lot of what the Nex Band can. The poor build quality of the band, lack of a clock display, and the awkward battery charger also make it tough to recommend.