TL;DR: The Nex Band should be for kids
We had a news piece on the Nex Band back when Pokemon Go was still hot and Niantic was only hated at intermittently. Turns out that Niantic “Nex + Ingress Band” collaboration wasn’t based on a stable partnership between a startup and a gaming company that cannot properly wield its infrastructure.
Still, the Nex Band— technically the Nex Band 2, but it’s still just called the Nex Band — persisted and it’s here. It’s a elastomer bracelet with five capacitive touch zones and an LED below each (those are collectively called ‘Mods’) and a single physical button to the side of the plastic case. It charges via Micro-USB, but through a snap-on cradle as to take pressure load off the port with the physical nature of the bracelet.
I’ve had some scratching concerns on the occasion that my wrist copped a meeting with a wall, door or lightpole, but no damage’s turned up. That’s a good thing.
Pairing the Nex Band to the Nex app for iOS or Android) is darn easy, though being aware of the band’s connection state is tough. The band vibrates without lighting up and you have to press the button once and keep in mind a few patterns in order to see if the Nex Band is finding, disconnected or connected to a partner.
By design, the language of the Nex Band is limited, if versatile as the LEDs can be made to fade between colors and black. You can create your own vibration and color patterns per notification for a few communication apps: your dialer, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. You can set specific patterns to keywords (hashtags, people and other such things) per app.
Combine that with the ‘Hacks’ you can apply to each Mod. Double-tapping or long-pressing a Mod from resting state. The Mods’ functions will then change and let users effectively go into applications like a soundboard, media playback controls, sending a recurring email or even drop a geolocation pin. Mods have IFTTT recipe and Maker Channel support as well.
The good people at Nex-maker Mighty Cast have told me it has been aiming the band at tech enthusiasts as something a bit more discreet than a watch with a touch display that may actually suck up more time than pulling out the phone — for many, that’s the number one imperative for smartwatches out the window.
Here’s my quick take, though: with coding classes being integrated in more classrooms these days, why not start kids off even earlier? Associate very basic instruction assembly with flashing colored lights and let primary schoolers customize the visual appeal to it. It doesn’t just have to be a classroom lesson, either, as the wearable nature of the band allows the learning to continue away from a keyboard and display — and if there is anything that should be moderated when it comes to kids and mobile technology these days, it’s bound to be screen time.
The Nex Band is currently available in black or white for a first batch price of $79.99 (FRP $99.99).