Pebble founder: it’s your ‘final probability’ to make a small Android telephone occur

Pebble founder: it’s your ‘last chance’ to make a small Android phone happen


Eric Migicovsky, who based and helmed the Pebble smartwatch firm and who’s engaged on a chat app that can convey iMessage to Android, has a brand new quest: getting somebody, anybody, to make an Android telephone you may truly use in a single hand. He needs to, as he put it in an interview with The Verge, “unionize” a group of small telephone lovers to get sway with telephone producers and suppliers.

To try this, he’s constructed a web site — — that explains his dream telephone. Mainly, he needs a flagship that’s the dimensions and form of the iPhone Mini however working inventory Android. The location argues that small telephones are good, truly, and it asks like-minded folks to basically signal a petition. Migicovsky says he’s on the lookout for 50,000 or extra folks to assist show to producers it’d be value their money and time to make an Android flagship with a sub-6-inch display. Inside 12 hours of the location being up, it handed over 6,000 signatures. By Wednesday, that quantity was over 10,000.

After speaking to him, I’m not solely satisfied that he has a sure-fire plan for turning signatures into an actual product — convincing firms to put money into a distinct segment telephone as an alternative of attempting to make the subsequent huge factor is hard (although not unimaginable), even in the event you show that that viewers is comparatively sizable and keen to pay. Nonetheless, I got here away from my dialog with Migicovsky completely positive that he’s an ardent fan of small telephones, getting out the nice phrase on why they need to make a comeback.

“I bought the thought as a result of I used to be watching the Pixel 7 announcement and was like, ‘Holy shit, they’re simply making one other gigantic telephone,’ and that actually pissed me off,” Migicovsky says. That’s virtually precisely how I felt once I heard the “smallest” telephone within the Pixel 6 lineup now has a 6.4-inch display.

On his web site, Migicovsky exhibits how a lot the Pixel grew over a single era.
Picture: Eric Migicovsky

At first blush, it appears unrealistic that such a small variety of folks may persuade an organization like Google or Samsung to take a position on this telephone, and Migicovsky tells me that his 50,000-signature purpose is predicated on some “very, very again of the serviette” math. “In case you take a look at the upfront prices in a really tough method, it’s like 10 million bucks to get your first telephone made. After which the opposite ones value no matter the fee parts are.”

His purpose right this moment is solely to counsel to anyone who’d contemplate making a compact Android telephone that there’s a market there, one which may very well be worthwhile. “It‘s exhausting to generate profits in telephones, not to mention earning money on the earth’s smallest phase. So my pitch is: cost extra. We’re all right here yelling that we wish this. We needs to be keen to pay a bit of bit extra.” If 50,000 folks would truly purchase the telephone, based mostly on the $700–800 worth he suggests on his web site, an organization may stand to make tens of tens of millions in revenue off of his estimated $10 million funding. Once more, very again of the serviette.

At that worth level, although, I don’t suppose his dream telephone can be a tough promote to fans. He says he’s on the lookout for a telephone that appears “as shut as doable” to the iPhone Mini and that has:

5.4”-ish 1080p OLED show (60hz okay)

Cameras should be nearly as good as Pixel 5

should have nice low mild efficiency

Inventory Android OS

Snapdragon 8 (or different flagship processor equal)

5G world telephone

Gap punch entrance digicam

2 rear cameras (common and huge angle)


128/256GB Storage

4 hours Display On Time (SOT)

Unlockable bootloader


For what it’s value, I’m completely clicking the button on his web site to say that I’d be involved in shopping for this. Particularly if it had one or two of the options on his “good to have” checklist, that are:

Rugged sufficient to not want a case

IP68 water resistance

Fingerprint sensor on energy button

{Hardware} mute swap

Wi-fi charging


Nonetheless, even with a ton of signatures — and I’m not solely satisfied 50,000 folks rely as a ton — it’s nonetheless a really robust pitch to an organization like Samsung, Google, or perhaps a extra boutique producer. (Migicovsky admits he’s undecided what measurement firm can be finest to tackle this undertaking, however he’s keen to listen to anybody out at this level.) Making telephones isn’t straightforward in the perfect of instances, and the historical past of smartphones is affected by well-meaning firms like RED, Nextbit (which was folded into Razer), and Important, which all tried to make telephones to serve some area of interest viewers and all failed in a roundabout way.

Making issues worse, we’re not in the perfect of instances. Chips are exhausting for anybody to get their palms on, and provide chains are a large number. Who of their proper thoughts would need to undergo the trouble of constructing a distinct segment telephone when the folks clamoring for them might resolve to accept a giant telephone within the meantime? Even for established firms, the chance value of placing scarce chips and parts into even a “small” batch of moderately sized telephones may very well be enormous; no product supervisor needs to threat placing scarce {hardware} into small telephones that may not promote as an alternative of getting them go into the huge, low cost telephones that the general public appears to like.

Migicovsky thinks he has an answer that will take care of the riskiness of investing in a distinct segment undertaking and the problem of shopping for chips. “One of many issues that I’d do is I’d pre-sell these forward of time,” he says. “I’ve considerably of a Kickstarter historical past, and my premise is the individuals who need a small telephone know they need a small telephone. And in the event you put it in entrance of them — say, ‘Okay, we’re going to construct a small telephone, would you like one?’ — I’d put cash at it in the event you’re reliable and educated and also you knew your shit.”

Clearly, although, having cash in hand doesn’t assure you’ll be capable to make issues work. It will be exhausting to know who’s reliable, and even firms with earlier success can take approach longer than anticipated to truly ship a product. That’s to not say that it’s by no means labored earlier than (you can purchase the Unihertz Jelly 2 if you’d like a actually small telephone), nevertheless it’s not as easy as preorders = revenue.

The default telephone was ultra-pocketable. Now, that measurement class is difficult to search out.
Picture: Dan Seifert / The Verge

As for getting folks to take a position, Migicovsky doesn’t suppose it might be significantly tough since nobody else goes to make a small telephone. I’ve to agree. I do know myself sufficient to know I’d do virtually something for a compact and cozy system. “After which that solves the part drawback,” he says, “since you simply go to the producer and say, ‘Hey, give me the parts. Right here’s the cash.’” He additionally says that if a smaller firm had been to take the undertaking on, their finest wager can be to work with an OEM that already makes telephones, relatively than attempting to arrange manufacturing themselves.

If Migicovsky’s ballot does find yourself convincing a producer to tackle the undertaking — if somebody sees all of the names he’s gathered and agrees there needs to be a small telephone unbound by the constraints of iOS — he does have one piece of recommendation for them: keep centered.

“As somebody who’s constructed quite a lot of {hardware}, it’s a slippery slope,” he says, explaining that individuals may instantly begin interested by including an SD card reader or headphone jack in the event that they’re already asking for a distinct segment telephone. I admitted that my rapid thought after listening to about his thought was “this telephone ought to have a 3.5mm jack,” and he laughed.

As a substitute of including each fanatic characteristic, although, he thinks producers ought to as an alternative simply concentrate on making a superb small telephone with nice cameras — although he admits that’s no small process. (Plus, nice cameras aren’t robotically equal to nice success, as Pixel market share estimates can attest.) The location, he says, is him “planting a line within the sand and saying, ‘I feel I do know what’s proper. And in the event you agree with me, push this button. However in the event you don’t agree with me, don’t push the button.’”

Migicovsky thinks the window of alternative to demand a small Android telephone could also be closing. “This could be the final probability for us to take a stand and present help for small telephones,” he stated in an e-mail. “If Apple kills the iPhone Mini then each single OEM will say ‘even Apple couldn’t do it’ and have a straightforward excuse as to why they’re not making one.”

It’s a sound concern, although irrespective of how briskly he will get his signatures it feels unlikely that anyone’s going to come back out with what he’s on the lookout for earlier than that occurs. The rumors virtually universally level to Apple ditching the Mini from its lineup when it pronounces the iPhone 14 this fall (although we’ve argued that it may completely reside on as an SE mannequin).

The Mini is a good telephone, and each Migicovsky and I take advantage of it. But it surely’s not excellent — I and lots of others have taken situation with its battery life, and I’ve heard from a number of colleagues that they stopped residing the Mini way of life as a result of they needed to cost it too typically.

The Apple MagSafe Battery Pack on an iPhone 12 Mini

Migicovsky says he makes use of a magnetic battery pack to assist preserve his Mini charged, which is one solution to do it.
Dieter Bohn / The Verge

It may very well be very tough for a corporation to navigate potential churn, particularly when it comes time to launch a second small telephone. Even together with his expertise, it was a tricky query for Migicovsky to reply once I requested him about it. “I don’t know the reply there. I’m presently not planning on constructing this myself. I already had my enjoyable constructing {hardware}.” He did have one piece of recommendation although: “simply make it thicker till the battery is larger.”

There’s a restrict to that, although. Migicovsky says he likes the peak and width of the Oppo Discover N, which is a folding telephone. However he additionally says it’s simply too thick and heavy. (He’s not a fan of the Z Flip, both, saying that he can’t open it with one hand.)

Apple’s not the one firm to attempt to make compact telephones occur. Migicovsky particularly calls out the Sony Xperia Compact sequence on his web site, and once I ask him how he thinks Sony can enhance on it, he says the largest situation is that the final one was made in 2018.

In 2015 we gave the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact the next rating than the massive model.

However out of all of the issues you could possibly criticize about Sony’s strategy to compact telephones, persistence isn’t actually what leaps to thoughts; it made a number of compact fashions through the years, a lot of which acquired nice evaluations. Regardless of not sharing a few of the points Migicovsky got here up with for different small telephones (he says the Important telephone wasn’t significantly centered, the Asus Zenfone was too huge, and Nokia’s 2018 small telephones minimize out too many options), Sony seemingly couldn’t justify persevering with to make compact fashions.

Listening to his plea, and studying his web site, it could be straightforward to suppose, “Hey. You made the Pebble and spent a bunch of years working with enterprise capitalists. If you’d like this so badly, why don’t you simply do it your self?”

Migicovsky says he hasn’t dominated that concept out as an absolute final resort, however that he “actually hopes another person makes this.” I perceive his trepidation about it. Pebble was a good suggestion earlier than that appealed to fans, and he’s admitted that even that wasn’t sufficient. “We didn’t create a sustainable, worthwhile enterprise,” he wrote in a put up final month that appeared again on the smartwatch firm a decade after it launched on Kickstarter.

As a substitute of being the one that has to convey again the small Android telephone, he’s trying extra to be the spark that will get sufficient folks to demand one from the market. “There’s 7 billion folks on Earth. We’re not all the identical. Everybody has barely completely different habits and peculiarities. A few of us like these small telephones,” he says. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll be capable to rally sufficient troops collectively.” As somebody who would relatively quit smartphones — maybe buying and selling my iPhone in for one thing enjoyable like the “banana telephone” Migicovsky talked about to me — than get RSI from utilizing one thing that nearly classifies as a pill, I’m attempting to carry out hope he’s proper.


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