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Passion Project of Startup Wonder Is a Phone for Gamers!

written by Logan Brklacic May 21, 2018
A racing game is being played on a high resolution gaming phone.

Los Angeles-based startup company Wonder has gamers in mind with their new product, a phone that could rival the Nintendo Switch. It’s an Android-based gaming smartphone and docking system that is still only in prototype form. It runs on its own custom software, conditionally called WonderOS, and this will allow the overclocking of the phone’s graphic processor like a gaming PC. It allows the device to transmit its display to the television once you have it docked. Andy Kleinman, CEO and co-founder of Wonder, feels the gaming industry is ready for a hybrid piece of software like this:

“Everyone has the same exact product…They position it the same way by going after the masses. Nobody has anything unique. Apple is basically crushing everybody because Apple is all about the ecosystem.”

Kleinman wants to build an “ecosystem” encompassing gaming, niche gadgets, and online communities. The product, reportedly on track to be released next year, will consist of a hardware package and a subscription service. This will grant Wonder users a smartphone, dock, controller, and access to software services. Sounds expensive! The dock lets you play games on a television screen with the controller, and the controller has a slot for the phone to slide into. But what does the dock do? Is it essentially a mini console? I can’t have anymore boxes, no matter how small, sitting around my TV!

These proposed software services will range from accessing original and mobile-optimized third-party games from existing makers, to other entertainment features. I already have paid subscriptions for World of Warcraft, PlayStation’s PS Plus, and Amazon Prime. I personally do not welcome another one just to use a phone.

There is currently no official name, price, formal partnership, or phone specifications. The “phone” may also not be developed by Wonder, or even branded as a Wonder product, as they are in the process of having talks with companies making high-end flagship smartphones. Kleinman wants the device to do everything from make phone calls to stream PC games via Steam from Valve’s Steam Link:

“It’s more like an OS, which is why we can’t say that anyone with a smartphone can do this. There are still ways that we can have other devices be Wonder-enabled and there are certain threshold of specs that you have to have.”

A man holds a controller in his hand while a screen in the background shows various games to choose from. The controller is the protoype of Wonder's product.

Wonder isn’t the first company to try making a gaming mobile device. Nvidia tried with the Shield back in 2013. The Shield was a standard game controller with a flip-up screen and built-in Tegra processor unit. A lack of software and third-party developer support left the Shield to fade away, but Nvidia was not done with it! They revived the name and developed a streaming media player box that does the same things as its predecessor, but without portability.  Razer has attempted with the Razer Phone, but has suffered from some negative reviews.

In the strictly gaming sense, Sony developed the PSP and then the PSP Vita. These devices allowed you to play original games, classic console games, and connect to a PlayStation for remote play. Sony found the portable gaming market was being dominated by mobile devices. Sony also directly competed with the Nintendo 3DS, which was proving to be much more successful. Sony will no longer make physical game cards for the PSP Vita at the end of their fiscal year but will continue with digital distribution of games. The PSP VIta is not dead yet!

The Nintendo Switch is the closest competitor for what Wonder is trying to achieve. Nintendo took the successes of the 3DS and shortcomings of the Wii U, and voila, the Switch was born. The Switch offers the convenience of handheld gaming with the power of a console.

However, Wonder does not want to make a Switch clone. They want to achieve an entertainment brand that has the hardware versatility of a hybrid mobile console. Kleinman feels Wonder can do this by overcoming the challenges the Switch faces, like battery life, and offering a less restrictive game library. Wonder has their work cut out for them if they want this thing out next year. The small team of only 30 will need to develop a prototype suitable for beta testing, as well as partnerships with manufacturers, gaming studios, and content creators.

Would you want a device similar to what Wonder is promising? Would this drive people away from phones like the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy? Would you rather just have a Nintendo Switch? Let us know in the comments!

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