Pebble founder: It’s your ‘last chance’ to make a mini Android phone

Eric Mijkowski, who founded and runs the smartwatch company Pebble and works on a chat app This will bring iMessage to Android, has a new mission: get someone, anyone, to make an Android phone that you can actually use with one hand. Wants, he put it in an interview with the edge“unifying” a community of small phone fans to influence phone manufacturers and suppliers.

To do this, create a site – – That explains his dream phone. Basically, he wants a flagship the size and shape of an iPhone Mini but running Android. The site says that small phones are goodIn fact, like-minded people are basically asked to sign a petition. Mijkowski says he’s looking to recruit 50,000 people or more to help prove to manufacturers that it’s worth their time and money to create an Android flagship with a 6-inch screen. Within 12 hours of creating the site, over 6000 signatures had passed. By Wednesday, that number had crossed 10,000.

After speaking to him, I’m not entirely convinced that he has a sure-fire plan to turn signatures into a real product — persuading companies to invest in a niche phone rather than trying to make the next big thing difficult (though not impossible), even if you prove that this audience is relatively large and willing to pay. However, I fell out of my conversation with Mijikowski at all Sure he’s an ardent fan of small phones, as he talks about why they’re coming back.

“I got the idea because I was watching the Pixel 7 ad and I said, ‘Oh my God, they’re making another giant phone,’ and it really pissed me off,” Mijkowski says. That’s exactly how I felt when I heard that the smallest phone in the Pixel 6 range now has a 6.4-inch screen.

Migicovsky explains on his website how much the Pixel has grown over a generation.
Photo: Eric Mijkowski

At first glance, it seems unrealistic that such a small number of people will be able to convince a company like Google or Samsung to invest in this phone, and Migicovsky tells me that his goal of 50,000 signatures relies on “the very, very back of the napkin” math. “If you look at the upfront costs in a very rough way, you’re going to find roughly $10 million to get your first phone. Then the other items cost whatever the cost components.”

His goal today is simply to suggest to anyone who might be thinking of making a small Android phone that there is a market out there, that it could be profitable. “It’s hard to make money from phones, let alone make money in the smallest chip in the world. So my offer is: Charge more. We are all here screaming we want this. We should be willing to pay more.” If 50,000 people actually bought the phone, based on the price he suggests on his website $700-800, the company could make tens of millions in profits from his $10 million investment. Once again, the handkerchief appeared.

However, at this price point, I don’t think his dream phone would be hard to sell to enthusiasts. He says he’s looking for a phone that looks “as close as possible” to the iPhone Mini and has:

5.4 inch OLED display with 1080p resolution (60Hz is ok)

Cameras should be as good as Pixel 5

You must have great low-light performance

Android operating system

Snapdragon 8 (or another major processor equivalent)

Global 5G phone

Front camera hole

2 rear cameras (normal and wide angle)


128/256 GB Storage

4 hours screen playback time (SOT)

Bootloader not unlockable


For what it’s worth, I totally click the button on their site to say I’m interested in buying this. Especially if it has one or two of the features in your “good to have” list, namely:

Durable enough to not need a case

IP68 . Water Resistant

Fingerprint sensor on the power button

Device mute switch

Wireless charging


However, even with so many signatures – and I’m not entirely convinced that 50,000 counts a ton – this is still a very tough proposition for a company like Samsung, Google, or even another manufacturer. (Mijikowski admits he’s not sure what size company is best to take on this project, but he’s willing to hear back from anyone at this point.) Making phones isn’t easy in the best of times, and smartphone history is replete with well-meaning companies like redAnd Nextbit (that was folded in the scanner), And Basicwhich all tried to build phones to serve a niche audience and all somehow failed.

To make matters worse, we’re not at the best of times. chips Hard for anyone to get their hands onAnd Supply chains in disarray. Who in their right mind would want to go through the hassle of building a specialized phone when the people who demand it decide to settle for a big phone in the meantime? Even for incumbents, the opportunity cost of putting chips and scarce components into a “small” batch of reasonably sized phones can be huge; No product manager would want to risk putting rare hardware into small phones that they might not sell instead of getting them into The cheap big phones that the public seems to love.

Mijikovsky believes he has a solution that deals with the risks of investing in a specialized project and the difficulty of buying chips. “One of the things I would do is I would pre-sell it,” he says. “I have Somewhat out of Kickstarter history, and my hypothesis is that people who want a small phone know they want a small phone. And if you put it in front of them – say, “Okay, we’re going to make a little phone, do you want one?” – I’d put money into it if you were trustworthy, knowledgeable, and know your bullshit.”

Obviously, however, having money on hand does not guarantee that you will be able to make things work. He. She Maybe It’s hard to tell Who is trustworthyEven companies with previous success can take it Longer than expected way to actually ship an item. This doesn’t mean it hasn’t worked before (you can buy The Unihertz Jelly 2 If you want a Is that true small phone), but it It’s not that simple As pre-orders = profit.

A virtual phone used to be within everyone’s reach. Now, this size class is hard to find.
Photo: Dan Seifert/The Verge

As for attracting people to invest, Mijikovsky doesn’t think it will be particularly difficult since no one else is going to make a small phone. I have to agree. I know myself enough to know I’d do just about anything for a device that’s so compact and comfortable. “And then that solves the plug problem,” he says, “because you go to the manufacturer and say, ‘Hey, give me the ingredients. Here’s the money. “

If Migicovsky’s poll ends up convincing the manufacturer to take on the project — if someone sees all the names they’ve collected and agrees there should be a small phone untied by iOS restrictions — he has one piece of advice for them: stay focused.

“As someone who has built a lot of hardware, it’s a slippery slope,” he says, explaining that people might immediately start thinking about adding an SD card reader or a headphone jack if they’re already ordering a specialized phone. I admitted that my immediate thought after hearing his idea was “This phone should have a 3.5mm jack,” and he laughed.

Rather than adding every excited feature, though, he believes manufacturers should instead focus solely on making a good little phone with great cameras — although he admits that’s no small task. (Plus, great cameras don’t automatically mean great success, like Pixel market share estimates can attest.) The site, he says, is to “plant a strand in the sand and say, ‘I think I know what’s right. And if you agree with me, press this button. But if you don’t agree with me, don’t press the button.”

Migicovsky believes that the window of opportunity to claim a small Android phone may be closed. “This might be the last chance for us to take a stand and show support for small phones,” he said in an email. “If Apple killed an iPhone Mini, every OEM would say ‘even Apple can’t do it’ and they have an easy excuse as to why they didn’t make one.”

It’s a valid concern, though, that no matter how quickly he gets his signatures, it’s unlikely that anyone will come up with what they’re looking for before that happens. Rumors almost generally refer to Apple give up mini from its lineup when it announced the iPhone 14 this fall (although we argued that was possible Absolutely live as a SE model).

The Mini is a great phone, and Migicovsky and I use it. But it’s not perfect – I and many others have dealt with the life of its battery, and I’ve heard from many colleagues that they have stopped living the Mini lifestyle because they had to charge it so often.

Apple MagSafe Battery Pack on iPhone 12 Mini

Mijkowski says he uses a magnetic battery pack to help keep his Mini charged, which is one way to do that.
Dieter Bohn / The Verge

It can be very difficult for a company to navigate potential crises, especially when it comes time to launch a second small phone. Even with his experience, it was a difficult question for Mijikovsky to answer when I asked him about it. “I don’t know the answer there. I am currently not planning to build this myself. I really enjoyed the fun building hardware.” But he does have one piece of advice: “Just make it thicker so the battery gets bigger.”

However, there is a limit to that. Mijkowski says he likes the height and width of the Oppo Find N, a foldable phone. But he also says it’s too thick and heavy. (He’s not a fan of the Z Flip, either, saying he can’t open it with one hand.)

Apple isn’t the only company that has tried making compact phones. Migicovsky specifically calls out the Sony Xperia Compact series on his website, and when I asked him how he thought Sony could improve it, he said the biggest problem was that the last one was made in 2018.

In 2015 we introduced the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact Score higher than the large version.

but out of All the stuff You can criticize Sony’s approach to compact phones, persistence isn’t really what you think; He. She made many of built Models Over the years, many of them have received great reviews. Despite not sharing some of the issues Migicovsky brought up with other small phones (he says the base phone wasn’t particularly focused, the Asus Zenfone was too big, and the 2018 Nokia minis cut out a lot of features), it seems Sony couldn’t justify continuing to Making compact models.

When listening to his petition and reading his website, it can be easy to think, “Hey. I made Pebble and spent several years working with venture capitalists. If you want this so bad, why not just do it yourself?”

Mijikowski says he’s never dismissed this idea as a last resort, but he “really hopes someone else will.” I understand his fear of that. Pebble had been a good idea before that which attracted enthusiasts, and he’s admitted that even that wasn’t enough. “We have failed to create a sustainable and profitable business,” he said Written in a post last month Which looked back at the smartwatch company a decade after its launch on Kickstarter.

Instead of being the one who has to return the little Android phone, he looks more to be the spark that attracts enough people to demand a phone from the market. There are 7 billion people on Earth. We are not all the same. Everyone has slightly different habits and characteristics. Some of us love these little phones, he says. “I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to muster enough forces together.” As someone who’d rather give up smartphones – maybe trade in my iPhone for something fun like Banana phone Mijikovsky mentioned to me – instead of getting the RSI from using something that roughly classifies as a tablet, I try to hold onto hope that he’s right.

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