This round smartphone hopes to break the mold

This round smartphone hopes to break the mold

The prototype Cyrcle phone.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

In a sea of rectangular black smartphones, the Cyrcle concept phone at CES 2020 immediately stands out for its novel design. Though not in its final stages (the encasing I saw was literally rough around the edges and printed by a 3D printer), the US-based company is aiming to launch the phone in the first quarter of 2021 for $700.

CNET checked out an earlier 2G model of this phone back in 2016. Since then, Cyrcle added 4G LTE and improved the handset’s hardware while retaining a form factor that is rarely seen in the phone industry. The device runs Android 9 and has a touchscreen display that measures 3.45 inches in diameter. While some apps, including gaming apps, will have to be reworked to accommodate this shape, Cyrcle CEO Christina Cyr said that, based on user feedback, the company will keep the square interface of popular apps and shrink it down to fit inside the circular frame.

During my brief time with it, the phone fit comfortably in my hand. It’s a good size, and I can imagine throwing it in my backpack easily; though it’s too thick to nicely fit in my front pants pocket. At the same time, it feels a bit funky to navigate. It’s as if my hands have to relearn how to hold up the phone and get used to this new shape. It actually reminds me of a giant pocket watch or rather, a giant Android Wear watch.

Cyrcle Phone Prototype CES 2020

Cyrcle may include two ports, micro-USB and USB Type-C, on the phone.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The phone also has two 13-megapixel cameras on the front and back, dual-SIM capabilities, and two headphone jacks. Cyrcle wanted to add two of them because it noticed younger users wanted to share their music with someone as both parties are listening. As I mentioned earlier the encasing at CES 2020 was unfinished, but Cyrcle is working with different recyclable materials for the final design that includes plastic from ski shoes and nylon from Audi car dashboards.

This isn’t the only time we’ve seen a design like this. In 2016, another company launched the Runcible phone for $600. Sold through IndieGogo, it had a similar concept and design.

Since then however, Runcible has remained pretty quiet, but Cyrcle is here at CES with its second-generation model. While I’m sure most people keep their rectangular phones for now, Cyrcle did manage to stand out at this tech show with its eye-catching design. The phone will launch its preorder campaign in the second quarter of this year and interested buyers can nab the phone early for the presale price of $500.

Other specs include:

  • Dimensions: 6.44x3x0.34 inches (163.7×76.1×8.7mm)
  • 3.45-inch LCD screen in diameter with 800×800-pixel resolution
  • 2GB RAM/16GB memory
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Micro-USB and USB Type-C connectors
  • 2,000mAh battery

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