When even Apple — the company that somehow managed to normalise wandering around with AirPods in your ears — can’t sell small phones, you would think it’s time for small-handed folk to just give up.
But not everyone is going down without a fight, and that includes many of those behind the original smartwatch: the Kickstarter success story, Pebble.
To be clear, Pebble doesn’t exist anymore. It was gobbled up by a bigger fish (Fitbit), which was in turn gobbled up by a giant sea creature (Google). But some of the core team are looking at the feasibility of making a a small Android phone for those who miss the days of easy one-handed typing.
It’s currently in the form of a community project called the Small Android Phone, and those involved include various Pebble types. Indeed, of the nine named people on the ‘meet the team’ page, seven of them have the word “Pebble” in their bios.
A community project is quite a long way from being an actual company, but that hasn’t stopped the team plotting out what their small Android device might look like. And a couple of the team have explained their vision to The Verge.
No name has been picked out yet, but expect something short and catchy like Pico, Atom, Bud, Mato or — naturally — Pebble.
Design wise, the team want something “very uniquely recognisable and very iconic” according to Alex De Stasio, who has done industrial design at Go Pro and, of course, Pebble.
But maybe not that uniquely recognisable. It’ll still be a “nice soft slab” — albeit one that’s “very high quality, very nicely put together, very solid feeling, and that just has very soft details that feel really nice on your fingers.”
As with most handsets (foldables aside), the team seems to think that the camera layout is the best way of making a phone look distinctive. Here are some of the designs they’ve considered:
Benjamin Bryant — another former Pebbler — says that this camera will include a sensor of around the 50MP mark. “Something that’s going to result in photos that look good,” he told the site. Though, admittedly, it’s unlikely he was going to say “something that takes garbage snaps.”
The big question, of course, is just how powerful it’ll be. The answer? Pretty powerful, but not top of the range. They’re torn between the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 — the chipset used in last year’s Samsung Galaxy S22 — and “a yet-to-be-released mid-tier Qualcomm chip,” Bryant says.
This all sounds pretty good, but there is a potential deal breaker here. Because small Android phones aren’t big business, and because the team are only hoping to build around 50,000 units, they won’t have the bulk purchase power to bring down costs. And that means the phone is going to get pricey.
How pricey? Around the US$850 mark, or around NZ$1,350. As a reminder, you can still get an iPhone 13 mini for NZ$1,199.
Of course, the price may come down if more people show interest. “The bet is there’s enough people willing to overpay for a phone,” Bryant says. “That can get it out the door, and then we’ll move down to the market price for the phone.”
It’s an awfully big bet for a little phone. But it would certainly be nice to see the brains behind Pebble rise again.