It’s not every day you see a smartphone launch that truly looks like something new and different, but say hello to the “Balmuda Phone.” This is a unique, compact little Android phone, totally out of left field, from a luxury Japanese toaster maker. You can’t make this stuff up.
Usually, these “random company made a smartphone” stories are all the same and involve calling up a turnkey smartphone manufacturer and getting a generic phone made. These turnkey smartphone operations have brought us wonderful products, like the KFC phone or the Pepsi P1, but that’s not what Balmuda is doing here. The company made a phone because it has a new idea for a phone, with a focus on a compact, rounded-over design rather than the huge slab rectangles that dominate smartphone design. It’s a phone designed around human hands and not the rectangle-shaped components that make up a phone.
To quote the website (through Google Translate) the company says: “The Balmuda Phone was designed for a shape that fits naturally in your hand. To achieve this, not only is the back curved, but the shape when viewed from the front is actually wrapped in a gentle curve—even the display. In other words, the Balmuda Phone is the only smartphone whose proportions do not include any straight lines.”
Being designed to be held means the Balmuda Phone is one of the rare compact smartphones out there. It has a 4.9-inch, 1920×1080 display, and a 69 mm body width. Tiny phones don’t have a ton of room for a battery, and the spec sheet’s 2500 mAh battery isn’t making us optimistic. The phone is also pretty thick, at 13.7 mm, but it should still slide easily into a pocket, since the whole back of the phone is curved, with it coming to almost a point at the top and bottom.
The phone feels like a love letter to small-phone enthusiasts, who are very vocal online. They haven’t shown up when companies cater to their demands for a smaller phone, though. The iPhone “Mini” line is continually the worst-selling iPhone model, and several rumors have claimed the model will die with the launch of the iPhone 14. Consumers are buying big phones, and devices with under 6-inch displays only account for 10 percent of the market, according to Counterpoint Research.
It looks like the phone’s primary speaker is on the back, right next to the camera and LED flash. To the left of the camera is another round object, a combo power button/fingerprint reader, which is nearly the size of the camera lens. It’s hard to make out in the pictures, but in those rear photos there is also a volume rocker just to the right of the camera.
Everything on this phone looks like a custom parts job, including the display, which has very rounded corners and a hole punch camera on the right side of the display. Being different is expensive, and the Balmuda Phone runs ¥104,800, or about $915. For that price you’re getting a mid-range Snapdragon 765 SoC, an unspecified amount of RAM and storage, and a 2500 mAh battery. We also don’t know if the 4.9-inch, 1080p display is an LCD or OLED. There’s a USB-C port on the bottom. The phone supposedly supports wireless charging, and with IPx4 water resistance, should stand up to splashes of water.
The phone comes with Android 11 and Google Play and has an interesting home-screen interface. The first home-screen panel is the usual collection of icons and widgets, and swiping horizontally will bring up built-in apps, like the calendar, clock, and phone.
Balmuda’s main product is called “Balmuda The Toaster“—a $300 toaster oven built around the idea of throwing some steam into the toasting process. You pour a small cup of water into the top of the unit, and the steamy air supposedly cooks the outside of the toast faster. Balmuda says this locks in the natural moisture of the bread, leading to enhanced aroma and flavor in your toast. After expanding the product line to include an electric kettle and an LED lantern, an Android phone was, uh, an obvious expansion to the product line? The Balmuda Phone is probably never, ever making its way out of Japan, but the US is the only other country where Balmuda sells its products.
The phone goes on sale in Japan on November 17.