For the past few years, the standing lazy punchline about wearables has been something about awkwardly strapping a computer or a phone to your body. Finally, a crowdfunding campaign has taken the joke to the next level and made that punchline a reality.
San Francisco Bay Area startup Arubixs has designed a flexible screen phablet dubbed "Portal" that slides into a dual-strap arm cradle that extends about halfway up the forearm from the wrist. It seems equal parts brilliant and ridiculous. We've seenlike this for years now -- mostly as demonstration models at CES that never make it to market -- but this is the first design I've seen that's built entirely around the flexibility of the screen.
"Current wearable offerings and even the new Apple Watch are just too small to text on or do anything really practical," Arubixs founder Brandon Mairs told CNET via email. "This (Portal) is not just a wearable. It's a smartphone you can wear. So when the phone is not in the cradle it's just a thin, 6-inch smartphone that's flexible, water resistant and shatterproof."
While the idea of essentially strapping a bendable phone the size of a Galaxy Note to your arm seems like it would be a tough sell even in a futuristic sci-fi universe, the Portal's specs are hard to ignore.
Arubixs claims its 6-inch TFT display is also scratch-resistant and reinforced by a flexible Kevlar exterior. It has 2GB RAM, a total of four cameras, 64GB of storage, a full suite of sensors, NFC, Bluetooth, LTE, wireless charging and a proprietary 3,200mAh flexible battery. The processor is yet to be determined. Portal will run a skinned version of Android and respond to touch, gesture and motion-based commands.
Part of me really likes the basic concept here, which is a single device that can act as smartwatch, fitness tracker and phone all at once, but the whole thing reminds me a little too much of the guy at the office party who tries a little too hard. Right down to the Indiegogo pitch video below, which at first seems like a satire from an episode of HBO's "Silicon Valley."
But if we can just throw away the absurd steel-banded "executive" model, and focus on the idea of a large, rugged wearable device for active uses like sports or even working in the field, Portal starts to seem like a pretty cool potential niche product.
If you're such a shameless phablet fan that you'd have no problem wearing one on your sleeve -- or as a sleeve -- you can claim a Portal via an Indiegogo campaign right now, starting at $349. If you prefer something a little more subtle, the company says it's working on a smaller, 4-inch model.
"We started with a 6-inch display first, then realized in testing (that) a smaller one could close the gap for everyone's needs," Mairs told CNET. "In early 2016 we will be introducing a more compact 4-inch. I personally prefer the 4-inch myself and wear that mock-up around town all the time."
Check out the pitch video below and let us know in the comments or by tweeting @crave if you'd ever consider wearing something similar.
Update, 10 p.m. PT: to add quotes from the company founder.