It’s not every day you see a smartphone launch that actually looks like something new and different, but say hello to the ‘Balmuda Phone’. This is a unique, compact little Android phone, all the way from the left field, from a luxury japanese toaster maker. You can’t make this up.
Usually, these “random company made a smartphone” stories are all the same and involve calling a ready-made smartphone manufacturer and having a generic phone made. These off-the-shelf smartphone operations have brought us wonderful products like the KFC phone or the Pepsi P1, but that’s not what Balmuda is doing here. The company created a phone because it has a new idea for a phone, with a focus on a compact, rounded design instead of the huge flat rectangles that dominate the smartphone design. It’s a phone designed around human hands, not the rectangular components that make up a phone.
Quoting the website (via Google Translate), the company says: “The Balmuda Phone is designed for a shape that fits naturally in your hand. To achieve this, not only is the back curved, but the shape when viewed from the front is wrapped in a gentle curve – even the display. In other words, the Balmuda Phone is the only smartphone whose proportions do not contain straight lines.”
Designed to be held, the Balmuda Phone is one of the rarest compact smartphones out there. It has a 4.9-inch, 1920×1080 display and a 69mm body width. Small phones don’t have much room for a battery, and the spec sheet’s 2500 mAh battery doesn’t make us optimistic. The phone is also quite thick, at 13.7mm, but it should still slide easily into a pocket as the entire back of the phone is curved, almost forming a point at the top and bottom.
The phone feels like a love letter to lovers of small phones, which are very noisy online. However, they have failed to show up when companies are meeting their demand for a smaller phone. The iPhone “Mini” line is consistently the worst-selling iPhone model, and several rumors have claimed that the model will die with the launch of the iPhone 14. Consumers buying large phones and devices with a screen smaller than 6 inches represent only 10 percent of the market, according to Counterpoint Research.
It looks like the phone’s primary speaker is on the back, right next to the camera and LED flash. To the left of the camera is another round object, a combined power button/fingerprint reader, which is almost the size of the camera lens. It’s hard to tell in the photos, but in those back photos there’s also a volume rocker to the right of the camera.
Everything on this phone looks like a job with custom parts, including the screen, which has very rounded corners and a hole punch camera on the right side of the screen. Being different is expensive, and the Balmuda Phone costs ¥104,800, or about $915. For that price, you get a mid-range Snapdragon 765 SoC, an unspecified amount of RAM and storage, and a 2500 mAh battery. We also don’t know if the 4.9-inch 1080p display is LCD or OLED. There is a USB-C port on the bottom. The phone supposedly supports wireless charging and should withstand water splashes with IPx4 water resistance.
The phone comes with Android 11 and Google Play and has an interesting home screen interface. The first home screen panel is the usual collection of icons and widgets, and swiping horizontally will bring up built-in apps such as the calendar, clock, and phone.
Balmuda’s flagship product is called “Balmuda The Toaster” – a $300 toaster oven built around the idea of throwing some steam into the toasting process. You pour a small cup of water into the top of the appliance and the steaming air supposedly cooks the outside of the toast faster. Balmuda says this retains the bread’s natural moisture, leading to an improved aroma and flavor in your toast. After expanding the product line with a kettle and LED lantern, was an Android phone an obvious extension of the product line? The Balmuda phone will probably never come from Japan, but the US is the only other country where Balmuda sells its products.
The phone will go on sale in Japan on November 17.