If there is one startup that has remained shrouded in mystery, it is Los Angeles-based startup Wonder. We know the company’s first device will be a gaming-centric smartphone and that the outfit is spearheaded by CEO Andy Kleinman and industrial designer Yves Behar, but not much else is known. Sitting down with Wired, however, finally led to Wonder opening up a bit and revealing some key details along the way.
Starting with the company itself, Wonder raised $14 million from investors that run the gambit. From venture capital firms Greycroft Partners and TCL, to Shakira, Kevin Spacey, Neymar, to even the likes of Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell and former Sega CEO Hayao Nakayama, Wonder received investments from folks with very different walks of life.
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Wonder also allowed folks to register for its mysterious Alpha program, which is set up as a bunch of forums where people can talk TV and gaming, among other topics. The forums also allow registered users to keep tabs on Wonder’s progress, with the goal to build up the company’s brand and recognition among multiple communities.
As Emmanuel Seuge, one of Wonder’s early investors, puts it:
The biggest task for Wonder is building a brand that’s recognized by the community of gamers as a brand that speaks their language.
This takes us to the phone itself, which Wonder wants to position as the center of an accessory ecosystem, similar to how Nintendo positions its Switch console. In other words, the phone can be played on a TV with a controller and then disconnected to play on the go.
All of that makes Wonder sound more like a gaming company than a hardware outfit, something that Wonder refutes. However, the startup did say it is in talks with studios to make games for Wonder devices.
Wonder has played around with different prototypes, one of which features a bezel-less design similar to that of Essential’s and Samsung’s flagship devices. The company found that there needed to be a bit more space on the sides to allow your thumbs to not cover up the screen, so the Wonder phone’s final design might have a bit of bezel on the sides.
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Other prototypes include one with a matte screen that minimizes glare, another that almost had the shape of Sony’s PSP, and one that looks like a bigger iPod. At least when it comes to prototypes and keeping a low profile, Wonder seems to live up to its name.
As for when we can expect to see the Wonder phone, the company looks to launch it sometime in early 2018. For now, we can only “wonder” what the phone will look like and what the software situation will be, the latter of which will be crucial to the phone’s, and Wonder’s, potential success.