One of the great things about CES is that you can be walking around the show floor and discover something (possibly) amazing that you've never heard of before. This happened to us this year when we came across the Saygus booth. Despite its odd-sounding name, the company was showing off its new Android phone, the V2, and we were immediately intrigued.
At first glance, there didn't seem to be much to it -- just another 5-inch device from a small company swimming in a sea of similar devices. Also, we did find it a little disconcerting that the first pitch from one of its spokespersons was that it's the only other American cellphone manufacturer, other than Apple, now that Motorola has been scooped up by China-based Lenovo. In reality, we are pretty sure the V2 is made in China, and there are other small U.S. cellphone companies such as Yezz Mobile and BLU, but we digress.
It wasn't until we looked at the spec sheet for the V2 that we understood why it could be a pretty big deal. If your jaw doesn't drop after reading (ALL of) the specs below, then perhaps you're on the wrong site!
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 (MSM8974AC)|
|CPU||Qualcomm Krait 400 (4 Core) @ 2.45 GHz|
|GPU||Qualcomm Adreno 330 @ 578 MHz|
|Memory||3 GB LPDDR3|
|Display||5.0-inch IPS @ 1920 x 1080 (445 ppi) with Corning Gorilla Glass 4|
|Storage||64 GB with Dual MicroSD slots for up to 256 GB of expandable storage|
|Battery||3,100 mAh (removable) with Wireless Qi charging|
|Cameras||Front: 13MP with OISRear: 21MP with OIS and dual LED-flashHardware camera shutter button|
|Audio||Stereo Speakers with Harman Kardon 3D Audio sound technology|
|Expansion Ports||Dual microSD slot, USB 3.0|
|Security||Fingerprint side scanner|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, 60 GHz wireless HD video beaming, IR transmitterCDMA & LTE (Bands ?)|
|Dimensions||137 x 67 x 9.7 mm|
|Operating System||Android 4.4.4 KitKat|
|Other||IPX7 water-resistantRoot access availableMulti-Boot (supports booting from MicroSD card)|
It's as if Saygus took every Android geek's wish list and created a phone that featured every single one of them. The most exciting feature, at least for me, was the touted ability to load a different mobile OS from the second microSD slot. A smartphone that can run more than one OS was my pick for our '2015 Wish List,' but I never expected it to (potentially) come true so soon. Of course, there are still hurdles to overcome with this feature, such as how to achieve the same level of performance running an OS off of slower microSD memory rather than the phone's internal NAND. Also, due to licensing issues, it's likely that the only alternate OS that will be officially supported is another open-source one like Ubuntu. You're not going to see Saygus provide Windows Phone for the V2.
A few of the other standout features are that both of the V2's rear and front cameras will have OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and that it will have 60 GHz wireless HD video output. This latter feature, known as WiGig, must be provided by a separate chip, because the only SoC currently supporting this feature is the Snapdragon 810. It will also be sold as a developer device, with root access available out of the box. The V2 is definitely a device for an enthusiast.
While we were at the booth, we got a chance to go hands-on with the V2, which you can see in the video below:
As you can see, the demo unit was clearly a pre-production model that was quite rough around the edges. It's a little lacking in the aesthetics department, too; the Kevlar back and industrial look definitely has more limited appeal than something sexier like the red LG G Flex 2 we also saw at the show. We were also disappointed to see that the V2 only uses a Snapdragon 801 SoC and isn't running Lollipop (Android 5.0).
Saygus did not disclose any pricing but did say it was going to be around $100 cheaper than equivalent flagship phones, so we expect it to be in the $500 price range.
Despite these issues, the Saygus V2 still has a lot potential, but as the old saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. Saygus talked a big game at CES and said all the right things. But the question remains: can it deliver? After looking closely at the pre-production unit we went hands-on with, it's clear that half of the features being touted aren't actually active yet.
While anyone with a little money can create a wish list of specs and have some Shenzhen ODM throw together a working prototype, it's another thing entirely to build a cellphone company from scratch—just look at all the teething troubles OnePlus went through this year.
While we want to believe a small American startup can build our dream phone, we're not ready to say that Saygus can pull it off. It's clear that it was using CES, like so many other startups do, to help drum up some publicity with the hopes of finding more investors to help make its phone a reality.
So, even though we are skeptical, and think it's more than likely that the V2 will end up being vaporware, we will still be keeping an eye on Saygus and will let you know if the dream comes true.