While foldables and 5G are all the rage right now, one relatively unknown company has been hard at work developing a first-of-its-kind phone that moves in a different direction. The Carbon 1 Mark II is the world’s first carbon fibre-bodied smartphone and we’ve spent some time with it.
There’s a strong chance you’ve never heard of creator, Carbon Mobile, despite the company having been in operation since 2016. The Berlin-based organisation bills itself as a “conceptual technology company,” an apt description considering the only products its unveiled so far have been exactly that.
As you might have spotted from the name, similarly to Sony’s freshly-announced 2020 flagship (the Xperia 1 II) this is, in fact, the second iteration of the Carbon 1. The first version was showcased briefly at technology events across Europe and the Middle East a couple of years ago but it never made beyond a basic proof of concept.
Carbon Mobile has been using the time since (along with the response from its original endeavour) to inform the Carbon 1 Mark II – a near-consumer-ready (at the time of writing) revision that still holds the first phone’s principles at heart of being impressively thin (6.9mm) and hewn from carbon fibre.
Mirroring that of Formula 1 cars (at a push), the Carbon 1 Mark II employs a carbon monocoque chassis, which should help with rigidity and resilience – especially for a device as thin as this.
Despite its astoundingly slender profile, the phone still incorporates a USB-C port, metal hardware controls along its right side and a separate side-mounted fingerprint sensor. The bezels along each side of its 6in AMOLED display are also pleasingly thin, while there’s a slight chin and forehead – the latter of which means there’s no notch and room for a 20MP front-facing camera.
Handling the Carbon 1 Mark II, it doesn’t even feel like a real product. At 125 grams it’s criminally lightweight (I first thought I’d been handed a dummy unit, until the screen flashed to life), weighing in at 50 grams less than the similarly-sized iPhone 11.
The company is aiming the Carbon 1 Mark II at its existing fanbase of ‘Carbonizers’, as well as those interested in the ‘performance lifestyle’ – those that might already have an appreciation for carbon fibre through a love of cycling, sailing, Formula 1 and the like – to use the company’s examples.
Not unlike Lenovo’s intent with the new Motorola RAZR, appealing to a niche audience makes sense, as the device can’t compete with the big mobile manufacturers from a performance standpoint, instead it’s hoping to stand out with its design, build and exclusivity.
It turns out working with carbon fibre at scale is a costly and difficult affair, and it’s likely the reason the likes of Samsung and Huawei haven’t released a carbon fibre-bodied mobile of their own as of yet. Carbon Mobile intends to release an initial run of just 2000 units and €800 a pop, with an estimated delivery date for this first batch of late June 2020.
For the price, the Carbon 1 Mark II is going up against the likes of the Google Pixel 4 and the iPhone 11, meaning interested parties really need to be won over by the allure of carbon fibre to want to lay down their cash.