More than a year ago, we got a hands-on look at the Saygus V-Squared “superphone,” and at the time, our own Alex Davies described it as “Android geek's wish list,” and to be sure, the spec list was tantalizing. But Alex wondered then if it was too good to be true, voicing concern that it could end up as vaporware.
Shortly thereafter, we learned the price and got a preorder window, and even after a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign months later . . . still no phone on the market. However, we met with the Saygus team at Mobile World Congress this week, and we learned that the phone is finally in production and will be shipping in March.
The Long Road
Even though the V-Squared is finally a Real Thing, assuaging vaporware fears, skeptics were right to question whether the phone would ever come to market. It’s been a bumpy road for Saygus.
The company was working with Chinese partners to source components and build the handset, but they kept running into snags. Basically, Saygus reps told us, the ODM they were working with just couldn’t deliver what they wanted. After months of frustration, they took the “go big or go home” adage to heart by breaking ties with the ODM six months ago and creating their own team to handle the work. And now that work is done, and the V-Squared is being manufactured as I write. It’s being built by Foxconn and Flextronics.
Aging Hardware, New Features
The only downside, at this point, is that all the tasty specs Saygus promised are no longer as delicious as they were at the beginning of 2015. The Snapdragon 801 SoC the company is using is no longer cutting edge, and the 3 GB RAM is still high-end, but less so than the 4 GB phones that have been announced and released in the interim. A Full HD display is all but standard these days, and many newer handsets rock QHD (2560x1440) resolutions. You get the picture.
In Davies’ hands-on article, he called the V-Squared a “wonder phone,” but it’s just not as wonderful now as it was. However, there are some new notable features.
For one thing, the shipping handset will run stock Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) instead of Android 4.4.4 (KitKat), and you’ll be able to customize the OS somewhat. (Saygus said that the customizability may not be available on the initial wave of March hardware, though.) At some point, you’ll be able to customize the look of your V-Squared when you order it, not completely unlike what you can do with Motorola’s Moto Maker.
The V-Squared is now fully washable, not just “waterproof,” meaning you can drop the thing in the toilet and scrub it clean in the sink. (Don’t laugh; it happens.)
Saygus said that the cameras are now better, although the company did not elaborate on which sensor the phones are now using. At 16MP rear/8MP front, the new cameras are lower-res than the 21MP (rear) and 13MP (front) from before, so ostensibly the sensor is a better one. The available dual-slot microSD storage capacity has nearly doubled, from 256 GB to 400 GB (2 x 200 GB)
Further, although the first round of the V-Squared still has the Snapdragon 801, Saygus said that the next iteration of the phone is already in the works. It packs a Snapdragon 820, and it will be available around the holidays. A representative stated that working models with the new chip should -- as of this week -- already be built.
Primo Feature: HD Video Beaming
The V-Squared still features wireless HD video at 60 Hz, and Saygus showed us how well that works via demos in its booth at MWC. While we chatted with the team, the phone was playing a loop of several movie trailers. The video feed was flawless in 1080p HD throughout. (It’s a good thing it works so well, too, because the USB Type-C port has USB 3.0 and no DisplayPort out.)
With the wireless HD feature and the still-relatively powerful internals, Saygus pushed the idea of the V-Squared as a “gaming phone,” while also noting that the V-Squared could be used in business settings as a presentation tool. These use cases are both certainly feasible, but the slightly schizophrenic pitch smacked of slight desperation on Saygus’ part. You can tell that although the company is overjoyed to finally have a real product to sell, the long process has worn on them, and they just want to ensure that people will still be excited about the V-Squared.
We musn’t pretend that the V-Squared is still as impressive of a phone (compared to current high-end models) as it was over a year ago, but the internals are still solid. Saygus knows this, too, although the team won’t say it in so many words. That’s why the company is already working on the next generation in time for the holidays yet this year. The company had to get risky to push the V-Squared to market, and now that a shipping product is nigh, it’s doubling down on the promise.