We can't wait to try out Project Ara, but Google's modular smartphone won't actually hit the market until early next year. Thankfully, there's another option available right now on Kickstarter. Augment offers the possibility of endless iPhone customization, though for now Rubix, the company behind this crowd-funded project, is only offering the opportunity to buy a specialized iPhone 5/5s case and an attachable battery pack.
The first thing you'll notice about the Augment case is its sharp angular shape. It adds a bit of bulk to the iPhone compared to slimmer cases, but in return you get a totally unique design that comes in black, red or blue. Rubix founder Will Matter tells us the reason for what he calls its "squared" design is to "allow the attachment modules to integrate seamlessly with the case." We think it looks pretty cool too.
The key to Augment, however, is the battery pack, which also comes in a variety of colors and slides comfortably into your pocket. It offers 1200mAh of power, enough to charge your iPhone back up to roughly 60 percent, and recharges via microUSB. Even better, you can use the battery pack on its own without the case, though we couldn't get it to work while using a different case. Based on our own experience with the battery pack it works really well overall. Of course, like with any rechargeable battery it's likely to lose some power over time with regular use.
The real promise of Augment, however, is the possibility of future modules. Rubix says it plans to release a special iPhone dock in the future along with a set of matching headphones. The creator says he's also considering a module for adding extra storage and another for making the base of the phone water and dust resistant. If Augment really catches on we might even see third-party manufacturers offer up their own modules, though it could be a while before that starts to happen.
As of today, Augment has already hit its Kickstarter goal of $17,000. That means if you back it now you're pretty much guaranteed to get your new iPhone case next month. Rubix is charging $20 per case and $35 per charging pack, or you can order both for just $50.
There's always some risk back any Kickstarter project, but the people behind Augment have done everything to ensure you get the product you've paid for. The company already has initial approval from Apple, and our own sample unit shipped straight from a Hong Kong factory in a matter of days. Rubix notes that there could be some delays depending on how many people end up backing the project, but if for any reason your order isn't arriving by June as June you'll be warned ahead of time.
Whether you're looking for an interesting new case for your iPhone 5/5s or you just need a little extra battery juice to make it through the day Augment offers an elegant solution. Best of all, you're not just buying a one-time product, you're helping launch a new company that could pave the way for a endless smartphone modules years down the line.