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Hackable Runcible pocket smartwatch goes on pre-order

Jun 15, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 1,509 views

Monohm has relaunched its disc-shaped, open source “Runcible” mobile device, which runs an Android-based OS on a Snapdragon 410, and has a 2.5-inch display.

The Runcible received a lot of media attention when it was originally announced running Firefox OS in Feb. 2015. But it also left a lot of questions. Was the rounded, disc-shaped gizmo a phone, a pocket smartwatch, or a hippie talisman for warding off mean people?

Runcible, front and back
(click image to enlarge)

The revamped model, which is now available on Indiegogo starting at $399, is not a phone, although you will be able to pair it with a phone using Bluetooth. Gone is any mention of Japanese carrier KDDI, and Berkeley, Calif.-based Monohm suggests that if it does engage with a wireless carrier, the device will remain unlocked. 4G LTE data appears to be a stretch goal.

One new and very encouraging development is that the Runcible is “fully open source” and “hackable by you both at the hardware and the software levels,” according to Monohm. Customers get root access, as well as access to GPIO and other hardware interfaces. The device is said to be designed so users can easily take it apart and modify it.

Runcible exploded view

The Runcible is no longer based on the largely defunct Firefox OS Linux. Instead its quad-core, Cortex-A53 Snapdragon 410 runs a homegrown Buni OS based on AOSP’s fully open source Android 5.1 build. It provides the Crosswalk web runtime, used for developing Android and Cordova apps, which is said to deliver “world class frame rates.” Web APIs, which are built on top of a Chromium base layer, have been extended “to give you unprecedented access to the underlying device,” says Monohm.

Runcible watchface

As before, the device is said to offer a subdued, totally chill interface that “will never beep, alert, or otherwise interrupt you.” It’s hard to get a feel for the GUI, however, as there are still no screenshots displayed except for a stylish, old-timey watchface and compass.

The Runcible has 1GB of RAM and 8GB eMMC 5.0 flash, but no microSD slot. You get WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, and GPS, plus the possible inclusion of a 4G LTE option. The round, 2.5-inch, display is limited to 640 x 640 resolution. The Runcible is further equipped with a 7-megapixel camera, a USB 2.0 port, audio I/O, and some GPIO headers.

Runcible Lovelace in madrone wood (left) and Sinker Redwood Runcible. (Don’t let the snail send you the wrong message — the device has a powerful quad-core 64-bit Snapdragon 410.)
(click images to enlarge)

There is more discussion on the Indiegogo page about the plastic and wooden back-plates than about the tech specs. The sustainably built device is available in a $399 Runcible Babbage model with a rounded backing made of “reclaimed ocean plastic fished out of the Great Pacific Plastic Island.” The $499 Runcible Lovelace is made of sustainably harvested madrone wood from Mendocino, Calif., and a limited edition $599 Sinker Redwood Runcible uses Sinker Redwood from Mendocino, which has been semi-petrified by having spent 100 years or so underwater in rivers. (Perhaps there should be a stretch goal for a compartment to hide your Mendocino-grown weed?)

Specs for the Runcible include:

  • Processor — Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 (4x Cortex-A53 cores @ 1.2GHz); Adreno 306 GPU with OpenGL ES 3; Qualcomm Hexagon v5 DSP
  • Memory — 1GB LPDDR3 RAM @ 533MHz; 8GB eMMC 5.0
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz single band
    • Bluetooth 4.1
    • Qualcomm IZat Gen 8C GPS/GLONASS
    • 4G/LTE data option (“hopefully”)
  • Display — circular, 2.5-inch, 640 x 640 display (256dpi)
  • Camera — rear-facing 7-megapixel (Supports up to 13-megapixels for hacking external camera)
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 client/host port
    • Analog in/out jack with other internal audio interfaces
    • 2x BLSP 4-pin ports configurable as I2C, SPI, UART, or GPIO
  • Operating system — Buni OS (based on Android 5.1)

The $400 to $600 price is a lot to ask for such a modest little device, but with the powerful Snapdragon 410 and the new open source nature of the Runcible, Monohm has our attention. One thing the Runcible has going for it is that it looks gorgeous, and would seem to fit comfortably in your hands and pockets. It could prove irresistible to those who want to customize a beautiful, uniquely designed device to slap down on the bar or café table instead of just another me-too phone. And you could always use it to play an impromptu game of shuffleboard.

Further information

The Runcible is available on Indiegogo for another 16 days, starting at $399, with shipments due in September. More information may be found at the Runcible Indiegogo page and the Monohm website.

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One response to “Hackable Runcible pocket smartwatch goes on pre-order”

  1. Seanishere says:

    That price of $399 is too much for this device.

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