Recently, a company called Emperion teased a new "phone" coming dubbed the "Nebulus." What makes it interesting is the device running Windows 10 on ARM instead of the now-defunct Windows 10 Mobile. The company also promises the ability to run Android apps, making it sound like a killer option for early adopters. Here's why, though, I'm skeptical, and you should be too.
1. Windows 10 on ARM can't make phone calls
At least as is, Windows 10 does not have the proper telephony abilities that Windows 10 Mobile. In simple terms, that means it's not clear how the Nebulus can be a phone since it can't make phone calls (or send SMS messages).
Emperion says, "they're working with Microsoft," though that could mean anything. The company also liked a tweet that mentioned they would be adding their own telephony abilities. Maybe Emperion has solved this problem, but until we know more, it's one more thing to cause concern.
2. Snapdragon 845 is a weird choice
The Nebulus allegedly runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor (original plans suggest the device was Intel-based).
Up until now, Windows 10 on ARM has supported the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Snapdragon 850 and, and Snapdragon 8cx. The Snapdragon 845 was never supported, nor has there been any devices with Windows 10 released with it to our knowledge. Granted, the Snapdragon 850 is technically just the Snapdragon 845 with higher clock speed, but we're not sure why Emperion would not just say that.
Furthermore, many people have complained about the speed inadequacy of the Snapdragon 8cx. Those people are wrong, of course, but going down a step on a device with likely slower storage and RAM is not going to help with performance. Running full Windows on the Snapdragon 845 (even "overlocked") may not be that satisfying.
3. Android apps – but how?
Emperion claims the "phone" will run Android apps within Windows itself without an emulator. The last part is weird, as that means something like BlueStacks is out of the picture.
Do they mean it runs Android apps via Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)? If so, it's a bit of a kludge, and it's still technically a form of emulation. It also means that something like the Google Play store is improbable, but instead, users must sideload Android APK files directly.
Assuming all of that happens somehow that it is still likely to be a messy experience.
4. The UI (and company) is a mystery
Emperion claims that the Nebulus runs a custom UI, which, assuming it is true, will likely do little to improve performance.
Again, we don't know what this even means. Some screenshots the company used in mockups looks like a combination of Windows Phone and Windows 10X, which doesn't seem possible.
Then there is Emperion themselves. If you have never heard of them, you're not alone as we haven't either. With under 500 followers on Twitter and a not very handy webpage, we can't say this is a company that yet inspires confidence.
Whatever the Nebulus is, it's undoubtedly a "white label" brand out of China with perhaps some modest changes and Windows 10 on ARM shoehorned on to it. That means don't expect much for the camera or hardware quality.
Emperion has shared some purported specs of the Nebulus, which include:
- 2x 13MP AI Camera + 10.5MP Selfie
- 6.19-inch Cosmos Display
- PureVi Visual Enhancement technology
- 2K upscaling
- 6,000mAh Battery
- 128GB Storage (expandable up to 2TB)
- Front-firing 1CM speakers with Dolby
- Windows 10 Pro + Android in one
- Headphone jack
- Pricing: £549 (~ USD 713)
The Nebulus will also first be released to Europe, Middle East, and Asia.
5. This isn't Windows 10X
Microsoft's Windows 10X was originally conceived of running on a phone. Indeed, the Surface Duo was going to be a Windows 10X device before Microsoft decided sometime in late 2018 to go with Android instead.
Most people know enough about Windows 10X to recognize it'd be advantageous on this type of device. Unfortunately, Windows 10X does not yet support ARM processors, so Emperion has no choice here.
That's regrettable and makes the concept of this device a year or two too early. Running full Windows 10 with Win32 support on a teeny device with a Snapdragon processor is going to be a very different experience than running the more efficient Windows 10X.
Conclusion: Hope springs eternal
If Emperion ships this device, we will review it and give it a fair shake. If there's one site that loves pushing category-defining hardware, it's us. The idea behind Nebulus is very intriguing and the concept of an ARM PC that fits in our pocket has us stoked. But there is a lot of uncertainty too, including the hardware specs, legitimacy of the company, and even this phone's quality.
Fans of Windows Phone have been burned before when mysterious, no-name companies have swooped in to claim they have a killer device. But when operations like Razer and Essential can't even compete with straight-up Android phones, I'm not confident that Emperion can buck that trend.
There's also a lot of handwaving around crucial details, including how the OS works, or if Nebulus can make phone calls and send text messages. What about the keyboard? Battery life? Performance? Support or even a website?
For now, we'll keep an eye on Emperion, but we're not excited yet, and you probably shouldn't be either.
Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.
Leaks and rumors and concept art are great fun but I don't think there's a point taking vaporware all that seriously.
I agree. Unfortunately, I think Microsoft is behind this. They want to get people thinking about the possibilities of a pocketable device that’s not running the Android operating system.
Microsoft isn't behind this. They didn't even put Windows on their own phone!
@Tek Cop That's ridiculous. Why would MS be actively working to undermine the upcoming Surface Duo?
Do you think the upcoming Surface “Duo” will be running the Android operating system?
@Tek Cop I'm not following what you're attempting to say. Haven't MS already confirmed the Duo will be running Android?
Do you have some inside information you would like to share or are you just living in your own little fantasy land?
Of course it runs Android. The damn SDK and emulator is out for it.
I don't see a phone. I see a rendering. Am I excited about the idea? Sure am. Anything that creeps me away from the duopoly of Google and Apple is a win. But until there is an actual device to buy, it's speculation at best.
Microsoft could easily add telephony to Windows 10 with a software update(my Surface go LTE can already receive SMS messages. With the right software support, it could also make calls and send texts) However, the experience will probably be less than ideal unless you have it plugged into a larger monitor with keyboard to more comfortably run Win32 apps. Also, dual-booting may be cumbersome for the average user. I wouldn't mind myself as a power user, but having Android apps run seamlessly within Windows 10 would be the most user-friendly outcome.
How many devices with Windows + Android actually exist and work well? This appears to be a proof of concept that will not make it to production. Quite nebulous indeed
This sounds like it's nothing but VaporWare to get some Press Coverage and traffic on their web site so they can get a round of VC money. Would not be the first time, won't be the last.
Investors can't wait to lose more money on a Windows phone!
@bleached Not just investors but developers as well. This just isn't happening as you point out. I don't know what it is with WP/WM fans, they're just so gullible.
@Khaaannn "and traffic on their web site" It's my understanding they don't even have a website.
WoA is working on the Lumia 950/XL, and those phones have Snapdragon 808/810, respectively. For whatever it's worth, it's thus conceivable that any recently powerful SD can do so as well.
Running on Windows 10 in Tablet Mode? Then count me in as interested. I don't particularly care for Windows 10 with a Start Menu. Give me Live Tiles and you've practically have me sold. But all of this depends on how the telephone part works.
Big question here. How good is the camera. Will it be better than the duo? Only time will tell.
At least the duo is a real product as of right now
Could it be two phones in one? Could they have combined an android phone in the background and then us the my phone app to add telephony and android apps. capability natively on WIN 10 ARM without emulator? I think the cost would be high if you try to do this on one phone would you need two (CPU/RAM/ROM). Would it work better if it worked with a second phone? The android phone would just stay in your pocket/bag and you would do all of your work on the WIN 10 ARM "Phone".
I am, in principle, excited about this. That's more about what it could become down the line, rather than what it may or may not be in this incarnation. A high-end phone running Windows 10X and Android apps without restriction would interest me, but it doesn't seem like that is what this will be. I also have my doubts that Microsoft would give this their blessing, given that the Windows experience on such a device is likely to be suboptimal. If Microsoft does have ambitions of phones running Windows 10X in the future, I'm not sure that they would want consumers vision of that future tarnished by a poor Windows 10 experience now, before they are ready.
I'll believe it when I see it, and I think that will be never.
For anyone who thinks this thing is going to actually exist, might I interest you in some magic beans?
I'll trade you my talking donkey for those magic beans.
Well I look forward to this website getting a review unit so no real consumer needs to buy one.
While I'm riddled with skepticism like so many on here, I look at those live tiles and remember a time of glorious interaction with the likes of my Lumia 950XL...so if I were to see this on sale at a store or online, would I be tempted to buy one.......you bet I would..lol.
This is far too nebulous to be taken seriously. Surely they did not pick that name by accident. They may just be gaining experience for a switch to W10X assuming they'd still have to add the telephony bits. Maybe Emperion is a Microsoft front company and they have access to unofficial builds of "stuff".
Hypothetical, but whatever way they figure out how to get Android apps to work within W10, they might have a way to port over the Android phone/sms abilities in a similar fashion.... That is if they can actually do what they claim they will do. I won't be holding my breath either way.
This sounds too good to be true. But if it is.... I'm interested!
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