Smooth on one side, curved on the other, and powered by Firefox OS, the Runcible is an attempt by a startup called Monohm to meld smartphone connectivity to a device that harkens back to an earlier era.
The Runcible will be able to do all the things your Android or iPhone can do: make calls, send texts, take photos. But its makers say its shape -- less than 80 mm thick -- is intended to both get people talking about the device and get them to interact with the real world more often.
The Runcible has been shaped to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand, or nestled into your pocket. But the wooden back gives it a texture that is easy to keep a grip on.
Runcible's makers are planning on making photography a big part of the device. To focus the camera, for example, you'll have to rotate your wrist.
Runcible is the first device to run Firefox OS that's not a tablet, phone or TV. Because Firefox OS is Web-based, all the apps it has are actually websites.
While no cases have been announced for the Runcible, it's been designed so that a variety of cases and add-ons can be attached including a pocket watch-style flip cover and a pocket chain.
High-end, sustainable woods are used as the device's back. These include swamp ash, Honduran rosewood, green burl, maple burl, koa and wave ash, giving it the feel of a fancy stereo cabinet.
One potential use of the Runcible is as a fitness tracker for runners and cyclists.
The Runcible's GPS displays a compass with a red arrow pointing toward your destination. When it’s time to turn, the arrow blinks and adjusts its orientation, leaving you to figure out how best to get to point B. Monohm is even considering having the device divert you to interesting landmarks and notable points of interest along the way.
Runcible's maker, Berkeley, Calif.-based Monohm, describes the device as an "heirloom electronic." Everything about it, from its memory chip to its curved back, is replaceable and can be upgraded.
The company also envisions people who want to get rid of their Runcible shipping it back to Monohm so they can disassemble it and reuse or recycle the parts.
Whether placed on its round side or its flat side, the Runcible has high hopes that its unusual shape and high-quality parts will make it something everybody's talking about -- in a good way. That's no easy feat, given how many "unique" smartphone designs have been ignored by consumers.
The Runcible is expected to be available to consumers by the end of 2015. For now, the interface and hardware components remain a work in progress.