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Could round smartphones be the next big thing? Cyrcle hopes so

Cyrcle wants to shake things up with its circular Android phone.

Cyrcle Phone Prototype CES 2020

The prototype Cyrcle phone.

Sarah Tew/CNET
This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

In a sea of rectangular black smartphones, the Cyrcle concept phone at CES 2020 immediately stands out for its novel design. Though not in its final stages (the encasing I saw was literally rough around the edges and printed by a 3D printer), the US-based company is aiming to launch the phone in the first quarter of 2021 for $700.

CNET checked out an earlier 2G model of this circular phone back in 2016. Since then, Cyrcle has added 4G LTE and improved the handset's hardware while retaining a design that is rarely seen in the phone industry. The device runs Android 9 and has a touchscreen display that measures 3.45 inches in diameter. While some apps, including gaming apps, will have to be reworked to accommodate this shape, Cyrcle CEO Christina Cyr said that, based on user feedback, the company will keep the square interface of popular apps and shrink it down to fit inside the circular frame.

Now playing: Watch this: Cyrcle Phone flaunts a striking round design
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During my brief time with it, the phone fit comfortably in my hand. It's a good size, and I can imagine throwing it in my backpack easily; though it's too thick to fit nicely in my front pants pocket. At the same time, it feels a bit funky to navigate. It's as if my hands have to relearn how to hold up the phone and get used to this new shape. It actually reminds me of a giant pocket watch or rather, a giant Android Wear watch.

Cyrcle Phone Prototype CES 2020

Cyrcle may include both Micro-USB and USB Type-C ports on the phone.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The phone also has two 13-megapixel cameras on the front and back, dual-SIM capabilities and two headphone jacks. Cyrcle said it wanted to add two of them because it noticed younger users wanted to share and listen to the same music together. As I mentioned earlier, the encasing at CES 2020 was unfinished, but Cyrcle is working with different recyclable materials for the final design that include plastic from ski shoes and nylon from Audi car dashboards.

This isn't the only time we've seen a design like this. In 2016, another company launched the Runcible phone for $600. Sold through IndieGogo, it had a similar concept and design.

Since then, however, Runcible has remained pretty quiet, but Cyrcle is here at CES with its second-generation model. While I'm sure most people will keep their rectangular phones for now, Cyrcle did manage to stand out at this tech show with its eye-catching design. The phone will launch its preorder campaign in the second quarter of this year and interested buyers can nab the phone early for the presale price of $500.

Other specs include:

  • Dimensions: 6.44x3x0.34 inches (163.7x76.1x8.7mm)
  • 3.45-inch LCD screen in diameter with 800x800-pixel resolution
  • 2GB RAM/16GB memory
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Micro-USB and USB Type-C connectors
  • 2,000mAh battery

Originally published Jan. 9.