- A 4.5-inch display made of sapphire crystal, supposedly unable to be scratched by anything other than a diamond.
- Dual-LTE receivers, dual-band Wi-Fi
- A silicone-anode lithium-ion battery, providing more power in less space than a typical lithium-ion.
- A chassis "crafted from cool, textured amorphous metal," with rakishly chamfered edges.
What's most interesting to me, beyond the hardware specs (which, one hopes, still stand up by May 2014), the desktop-everywhere strategy, or the open-source matters, is the nature of how this phone could be funded, built, and shipped. Let's talk about suits.
Men and women who are perfectly average in size and proportion can choose from a wide variety of suits "off the rack" at department or clothing stores. But if you want a suit that fits you exactly right, that speaks to your taste and desire for quality (and ability to ship things from London), you have to go to Savile Row. Craftsmen on Savile Row charge a lot, but they also listen to a customer's needs, take into consideration the long-term life and use of the suit, and spare no expense on the details that are seen and unseen.
Not everybody needs a Savile Row suit, and very few could need (or afford) more than one. But no Savile Row suit is like any other, and the people who have them know they did not spend hardly any portion of the suit price on corporate marketing, partnerships, extravagant displays, or building their tailor's app. Suit makers make suits, and charge for their experience and distinctive crafting methods. You pay a good deal, but you get what you pay for.
The Ubuntu Edge doesn't quite fit this brazen metaphor—there will be thousands of the same phone made, after all—but it's an intriguing premise. Thousands of people offering up more than $700 for a smaller entity to build them a phone that emphasizes power, openness, international access, and geeky, tweaky promise. It will not have a free NASCAR video app on it, it will not prevent you from installing whatever firmware you find lying around the web, and you will not have to pay for all the marketing of a Verizon or an AT&T. You just get a phone built to the standards you are seeking.
I'm not sure the Ubuntu Edge is a phone a lot of people need or want, but, for once, that's just fine. If $32 million comes together, lots of people will get a powerful, unique-looking phone, despite the greater world preferring to shop for $200-on-contract phones. Smaller projects with lesser aims or more distinctive differences may follow. Choice is good.
Note: Gina Trapani and I talked about the Ubuntu Edge on this week's In Beta podcast, albeit with a different approach, and with far more skepticism. This post is where I landed after considering the Edge a bit more.