Technology has come a long way in the last decade. Our phones, which once served as simple devices to keep us connected to those we loved, now serve as mini-computers which keep us tethered to work emails, social media and celebrity news. More so than ever, they have become an escape from the world around us. Walk into any restaurant, coffee shop or bar, and you’ll see groups of friends silently spending time together, each individual buried deep into their all-consuming technological appendage. A new startup called Monohm wants to bring smartphone users back into the here and now, encouraging them to reestablish their connection to the real, live world happening around them. And they are finally one step closer to reaching that goal, as their circular anti-smartphone, the Runcible, is about to make its way to consumers.
The Runcible is essentially the opposite of every other smartphone on the market in pretty much every way. To start with, it more closely resembles a large pebble or a pocket watch than the standard rectangular smartphones we’re accustomed to. It is roughly the size of a coaster, and is contained within a case of recycled ocean plastic or sustainably harvested madrone wood. Another interesting feature is that, according to Monohm, the Runcible will “never beep, alert or otherwise interrupt” you – leaving the user free to take in the world around them. That being the case, its specs are pretty minimal. It has a 2.5-inch display with a 640x640 resolution, which makes for about 256ppi. It comes with a Snapdragon 410 quad core processor, an Adreno 306 GPU, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 are included, as is a 7-megapixel rear-facing camera. Creator Aubrey Anderson says the final product may even come with LTE – whether they’ll be able to garner enough pre-orders to “sway the operators” still remains to be seen.
In addition to being a highly sustainable device, the Runcible is built for customization. Monohm actually wants their phones to last “decades”, and has made it easy for users to pop the cover off and fix or replace parts. “When you take your Runcible apart, you’ll find exposed GPIO (general-purpose input/output) you can add components to,” Anderson explains. “You’ll find end points for audio, USB host, SPI (serial peripheral interface) and UART (universal asynchronous receiver/transmitter).” Much like the specs, the Runcible’s included features are pretty basic as well. It hosts an analog clock, a compass, and what appears to be a photo viewer. Additionally, it runs on a specially built operating system called “BuniOS” using Intel’s Crosswalk web runtime. Missing from the device? The Google Play Store, which will likely be a deal breaker for most people. Luckily, those are not the people that this tiny round gadget is aimed at. Runcible is not for the Twitter-obsessed, social media-chained power users. In fact, it doesn’t even have traditional notifications; instead opting for what Monohm calls “clean summaries of our digital lives”. Even its minimal features operate within the spectrum of encouraging real-world enjoyment. The camera has gesture-based controls, while the maps application suggests scenic (albeit less direct) travel routes. If you’ve been looking for a device that takes you out of your daily grind and forces you to stop and smell the roses, the Runcible could be just what you need.
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