Really, it is about time we started to see something like this. First of all, forget that this is going to be a very expensive fashion phone, despite whatever technical achievements it may make. The argument still stands that mobile phone technology is progressing faster than is prudent to make any one large investment in a phone. Alternatively, making a large investment in a watch is safer, because it will still be technologically relevant in a few years - a mobile phone will not be. So unless Ulysse Nardin has a plan around that, this product is still only going to be for a niche market. What really excites me however is a glimpse at an idea I have been preaching for a while now - use of a rotor to generate electrical energy for a mobile (always moving) device.
Lets step back and recall the first luxury phone, the Vertu. Still going strong I hear, Vertu's market was supplemented by the Tag Heuer Meridiist line of luxury phones. I don't have data to comment on how well that phone is doing. Next in line for name brand luxury phones is the Ulysse Nardin 'Chairman.' The official announcement will be at Baselworld later this month, but a few details have been made public in addition to the teaser image above. Like Tag Heuer, creating a mobile phone is not Ulysse Nardin's line of work. Both companies partnered with knowledgeable companies to design and create these uber-phones. For Ulysse Nardin, that partner is SCI Innovations (I could not find a website for them, so I can't tell you more for that entity). The Chairman phone will be a smart phone, which I suppose is a good thing given what you'll be spending on it. No doubt the phone will be unlocked, GSM based, and run a third-party operating system. For the OS, I have a feeling some skinned version of Symbian or Window Mobile will be use. My hope is that sufficient hardware is shoved in the expensive phone so that it all runs smoothly.
So leave all that information to be answered when it eventually will later this month. Like I said, the part that gets me excited is finally using motion to help power the phone. Even though the details are really thin, I have a feeling this is what we are going to see. In the mid 1990's Seiko released the Kinetic movement. It used a similar system of an automatic movement (with a rotor), but to charge a battery instead of winding a mainspring. For me the idea is simple, but genius in its execution. You use the motion generated by the user of the device to help generate power to operate it. The bane of all mobile phone users is the battery. It is no secret that battery technology is pitifully behind what our devices need. We continue to develop devices that (attempt) to consume less battery power because we cannot seem to get batteries that hold more power. I will leave that too the scientists behind it, but consider a device that sidesteps the issues by generating its own battery life.
That being said, I don't know how they will do it. The Seiko Kinetic movement works because the power necessary to operated a watch is minuscule compared to that which is required to operated a modern smart phone. I sincerely hope that this feature of the Ulysse Nardin Chairman phone is more than a mere novelty that helps charge the battery in a mostly symbolic manner. If the system operates as I hope it will, it could change the landscape of mobile phones forever - giving the power to charge a phone to the user just by moving it around regularly like we already do.
Not passing up the opportunity to point out the "green" angle of the watch, it is true that widespread adoption of such technology will help us reduce our energy consumption as the participating phones will be able to power themselves. Ulysse Nardin claims that the kinetic rotor system was developed by them, which is fine. I don't really care whose idea it was as along as it works.
The Chairman line of smart phones will initially be in a limited edition of 1846. The images above show that the rotor will be viewable as a showpiece element of the phone. Each phone will be hand assembled using similar high quality guidelines as Ulysse Nardin watches. The design of the phone uses materials such as gold, carbon fiber, and likely other metals for the case of the phone. No point in further speculating as all will become clear soon. Lastly, Ulysse Nardin hypes the phone as a "hybrid" for its combination of watch making principles and mobile phone technology. A fair statement by marketing, though marketing nonetheless. For me, I look forward to hearing about the energy charging system and how it works.
UPDATE: This doesn't change my thoughts from before, but it turns out that the Chairman phone will have two batteries. One of them will be powered by AC (plugged in), and the other will be powered by the kinetically charged rotor. We will have to see how much juice the second battery can dish out.
UPDATE 2: The phone is finally revealed and there is more information. We can see that the new operating system is pretty looking on the nice looking multi-touch screen. There is also a finger print reader for unlocking the phone and possible for some screen navigation (as some Japanese phones do). The phone has a 5 megapixel camera, WI-FI, Internet browser, email client, and the background of the screen is modeled after the Ulysse Nardin Quadrato Dual Time watch. Check out the gallery below for more images.
See full image gallery here at Engadget.com.
Learn more about the Ulysse Nardin Chairman phone at the dedicated website here.
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