When word of the Xiaomi-backed Black Shark gaming smartphone went out, it was compared to the Nintendo Switch. When it launched, it ended up only being half a Switch. Nonetheless, it seems that Nintendo’s wildly successful hybrid portable console has inspired not a few in the smartphone market to take that same road less traveled. One of those is a startup simply called Wonder whose dreams for an Android-powered gaming-centric smartphone is both like the Switch but also not like it.
To be blunt, all that Wonder has right now is an idea and an early (and at least working) prototype. It showed The Verge what looks like an ordinary Android smartphone with a custom WonderOS running on top of Android that would allow it to transfer its display to an external screen when docked. Wonder, however, isn’t just aiming to copy the Nintendo Switch. It is, in a way, trying to copy Nintendo itself.
The idea of a portable gaming console is nothing new. Sony has tried that with the PSP and, less successfully, the PS Vita. Neither is the Android gaming device a novel concept. From the failed OUYA box to the portable NVIDIA SHIELD handheld and tablets, there have been various attempts at taking Android to new gaming heights. Nothing stuck for long.
For Wonder COE and co-founder Andy Kleinman, the Switch’s success wasn’t just because of the device, innovative as it were. It was thanks to the right mix of ingredients, from the hardware to the software to game developers and publishers that Nintendo was able to cook together in one sweet Switch pot. In other words, it was the entire ecosystem that made the Switch what it is today, and that’s what Wonder is trying to bring to the mobile gaming industry.
How it will do so, however, not even Wonder is certain yet. It hardware, which will compromise of a smartphone, a dock, and a controller, may not even happen as a distinct Wonder product. Instead, the 30-strong startup is focusing on WonderOS, which, among other things, would overclock an Android phone’s hardware for more intense gaming. It is trying to make a software suite that manufacturers might be able to put on their devices and services that game publishers can use. It’s still pretty much a dream, but a dream that Android fans will definitely want to become a reality.