How the makers of this low-tech, wooden smartphone plan to sell you one

The Runcible is the phone that wants you to stop texting so much—but will anyone buy it?

Mar 1, 2020, 8:56 am*

Tech

Jam Kotenko 

Jam Kotenko

We are a smartphone-loving generation. Gadgets that have huge screens and top-notch camera functionality garner praise. Almost everybody these days has a smartphone that they regularly use to conduct a sizable portion of their daily lives.

Runcible is a circular device that aims to make users rethink their concept of what a smartphone should be. It is wooden. Why on Earth would we need or want it?

Runcible

“This form factor has a long history,” Aubrey Anderson, cofounder and CEO of Monohm—the company behind Runcible—shared via email to the Daily Dot, regarding the decision to go the round route. “Magic stones in your hand, compasses, women’s compacts—things that put your head back out in the world and your mind in conversation. It’s been designed to transcend the evolution of technology, last a lifetime and be passed down.”

Runcible may have a few capabilities—such as a high-performance phone function for calls and text messages, a camera, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, Internet access—that would convince you to ditch your phone for this funkier, quirkier alternative; but the gadget is not meant to replace the common smartphone. It’s meant to be a conversation starter, without the worry of being interrupted by beeps or notifications. 

“It’s designed to help you create a more civilized relationship with your digital life,” added Anderson. “The world-class connectivity we all came to expect in the smartphone era is there on Runcible when you need it, but for the rest of the time, you can keep your head up, your attention on the real world and real people around you, and maintain your sense of wonder about life.”

Monohm envisions Runcible as an “heirloom electronic,” one that can be fixed, upgraded, accessorized, enjoyed, and then passed down to the next generation when the time comes. With a one-third turn, you can access the insides of the device and conduct technological repairs and updates when needed; the shell remains and the inside advances with the rest of the tech world, unlike smartphones that can easily become obsolete within a two- to three-year window.

Runcible

An important feature to note is the fact that Runcible lacks the usual core apps and bloatware that accompany most handsets, according to Monohm’s press release. While it won’t be able to run apps like Instagram or Facebook, it can access mobile versions of most websites. It also has Firefox as its mobile operating system, which allows for open framework development by anyone with the know-how to create for connected devices and services.

Other features include a clean and minimalist user interface and a compass-like maps program that provides you with routes that offer the most scenery and exploration, as opposed to ones that’ll get you there the quickest way possible. According to Monohm, Runcible’s battery life can last up to four days.

Whether or not Runcible can successfully encourage smartphone addicts to be less digitally dependent and be more in tune with real life is debatable. We need our grams and our tweets and our status updates, after all. At best, Monohm has produced a thing cool and retro enough to garner interest from lovers of vintage form and function.

Runcible is slated for initial release later this year. Pricing has not been finalized, but Monohm confirms that it will be within the same price range as a premium, unlocked smartphone. You can pre-order Runcible today or check out the device at this week’s Mobile World Congress.

Photo via Runcible

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*First Published: Mar 3, 2015, 4:41 am