One thing that's been somewhat lacking in the field of wearable tech these days is the concept of the wrist-mounted communications device. Sure, we've never gone wanting for smartwatches that link up to smartphones and provide a wrist-mounted display, but we've not seen all that much of self-contained devices that can run alone, without a smartphone tether. However, we may well be closer to such a project than expected with the Portal smartphone.
Last spotted as an Indiegogo project, the Portal smartphone represented a rather exciting idea; an Android (News - Alert) device with a flexible six-inch display that could easily curl over a wrist. The device packs in an organic TFT display, along with four separate cameras and a hefty 64 gigabytes of storage capability. The device is said to be waterproof, reportedly to 10 meters, and straps down with the aid of two separate wristbands, and takes up most of the space on the forearm. Reportedly, there's also a set of LED lights involved with the device, and the battery can generate fully eight hours of talk time on a single charge.
The downside here, though, is that the Indiegogo page noting this device's existence and attempting to raise money for the production of same appears to have vanished. A check of the Indiegogo page reveals that the original listing for the Portal has vanished, and with it, nearly any ability to join in the funding. Reports suggest that the device was looking to hit $300,000 by October 24, and was fully eight percent of the way there with 26 days remaining as recently as yesterday, so why the Indiegogo page appears to no longer respond is somewhat unclear.
Still, this was a terrific idea. The idea of a completely wrist-mounted cell phone isn't exactly new—Chinese stores have been selling such devices for years—but a fully wrist-mounted smartphone, now, seemed to be well out of reach for just about everybody. While the Portal may never actually see the light of day, it's still an exciting idea. One of the great things about wearable tech is that it frees up our hands, and allows us to do other things while staying connected. No need to worry about balancing a smartphone in one hand and grocery bags in the other, or the like; just simply attach the phone to the wrist and it stays out of the way until it's needed. Throwing in the standard features like cameras certainly doesn't hurt, and the Portal might well prove just the device people have been looking for; a smartwatch that doesn't need a smartphone to work. Yet some reports suggest that this is just too much to ask for; one designer referred to the projected interface as “...a futuristic nightmare – chaotic and unfriendly, having cashed in user experience for gradients, textures and distracting backgrounds.”
Only time will tell if this makes it to market, or even returns from the lost netherworld it seems to be in right now, but it's still a noteworthy concept all the same, and should make quite the splash if it ever comes back into the public eye. It's the device that many users have wanted to see happen since first setting eye on the Pip-Boy of “Fallout” fame, or the two-way wrist communicator of the “Dick Tracy” series. But the Portal may, ultimately, not be the answer which many had hoped for, if it ever sees daylight at all.
Edited by Maurice Nagle
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