There was a time, not so very long ago, when phones came in all shapes and sizes. Anyone remember the Motorola Pebble? Clamshells and slide-out phones were resigned to history once the touchscreen took over. But in the name of standing out, manufacturers are once again starting to experiment with the form of their devices. Notably, Samsung has just released the curved-screen Galaxy S6, but it was far from the wackiest handset on display at the Mobile World Conference this past week. That award goes to the Runcible, a round hybrid of a pocket-watch and a smartphone.
Study the idea, though, and you realize it isn’t as weird as it sounds. Although virtually no-one uses a watch on a chain nowadays, we all use our phones in exactly the same way: as timepieces that live in our pockets, to be extracted when we need to tell the time. Equally, the Runcible is designed to offer an antidote to the overwhelming flow of notifications and bothersome information that our handsets provide us with. It harks back to a time when things were slower, more peaceful.
Physically, the Runcible also has a retro feel. Its circular screen is primarily for showing the time, but it also doubles as a touchscreen for control. You can make calls and send texts from this device, and it connects to the internet. Its curved wooden reverse even has the lens of a camera peeping out, and it sports NFC and Bluetooth connectivity. But this particular version of Firefox OS does not really run apps in the same way a high-powered smartphone does. You can install watch faces that tell you when your social networks are becoming active, or an on-screen compass to show the way to your next destination. The whole idea of this device, however, is to make browsing impossible when you should be talking to your dinner date.
Much like any high quality Swiss-made timepiece, Runcible’s creator, Monohm, wants owners to pass this handset through generations. Its innards have been made suitably repairable and upgradable for this reason.
Currently, the Runcible is at the pre-pre-order stage, so it is not clear how much it will cost. Whatever it eventually retails for, I can see that a small band of busy, style-conscious folks may take to this new category of device. Is it a new kind of smartwatch? Or an “anti-smartphone?” Who knows. It is just mighty attractive.
To register an interest in the Runcible, head to Monohm’s website.