Mobile World Congress: Runcible Aims for Quiet, Discreet Mobile Chic

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The 2015 Mobile World Congress is now underway in Barcelona, touting all manner of bells and whistles coming to your phone, wrist or head (if you’re into VR). One startup, however, isn’t shouting but whispering, calling for non-intrusive mobile connectivity instead of “look at me!” Google Glass-like attention.

The team at Monohm, which includes Apple and Sony alumni, would much rather have people gaze at the world around them than draw attention to its mobile device. It has attracted some key attention, however, in the form of investment by KDDI, the Japanese telco.

Called Runcible, it’s an undeniably beautiful and intriguing object, with a vaguely steampunk and sci fi vibe, recalling a Star Trek-style communicator you’d activate by touching what looks like a brooch on your chest—or the obelisk in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Is it watching us? Are we supposed to watch it? [more]

Designed to look like an old-fashioned pocket watch, it’s a smartphone/wearable tech hybrid. Its round screen enables web browsing, photo taking and voice calls—but won’t accept apps, and it won’t ring or vibrate to alert the wearer.

“This is us blowing up the rectangle and distilling it down to its core elements, and enabling and forcing you to have more social interaction and be more engaged with those that you care about and love,” George Arriola of Monohm told Cool Hunting. “It’s the idea of pulling [the technology] toward you, rather than it pulling you.”

Unlike other smartphones, Runcible’s mapping tool will access the most interesting path to a destination rather than the speediest. Also, instead of using apps, Runcible’s operating system is based on Open Web standards so it can connect to the ever-growing array of Internet of Things connected devices.

“People need something to let them control their digital lives in clean, quiet, simple ways,” stated Monohm’s press release. “Runcible is the alternative to the increasingly invasive and commodified smartphone whose app-centric approach distracts us from our lives instead of helping us live them.”

It’s intended to have a bit of old-world charm. The name of the device comes from “a nonsense word [created] by an English poet,” CNET reports. “Runcible is circular, with a convex wooden back designed to nestle in your palm. It’s got a screen on the front, a camera on the back and a heft that makes it feel substantial.”

Monohm’s goals is to have smartphones, so often associated these days with intrusive if not downright obnoxious behavior, return to the “social niceties of pocket watches.” In other words, it would be nice if everybody weren’t constantly looking at them.

In 2010, 135 million mobile phones were trashed, according to the EPA, so Runcible also aims to offer an alternative to disposable tech.  

Monohm anticipates that consumers will keep the Runcible around for a number of years and simply upgrade the interior pieces when needed, rather than disposing of them after a few years like the regular smartphone, Cool Hunting reports.

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