Everything you need to know about the WhartonBrooks 'Cerulean Moment' Windows phone (exclusive)

I mean that literally. The Windows phone that has been shrouded in secrecy since this courageous Connecticut-based upstart company made audacious and ambitious claims in a press release last year is called the "Cerulean Moment."

Early this month, I sat down with WhartonBrooks CEO Greg Murphy and spent nearly two hours talking about the Moment, WhartonBrooks and what happens next.

Behind the curtain

This exclusive includes a reveal of WhartonBrooks's smartphone strategy, the latest challenges to its plans, and the official announcement of the Cerulean Moment, the only Windows phone made for Windows phone fans by a Windows phone fan.

Since the company's initial press release, I've provided extensive coverage of its journey to this exclusive reveal. Succeed or fail (though we are rooting for its success), the chronicling of the journey of this self-proclaimed "biggest Windows phone fan" who has built a company dedicated to Windows phone is unique in the industry and worthy of being told.

Like Hewlett-Packard (HP), WhartonBrooks has embraced Windows 10 Mobile, a platform many consider to be dead despite continued development by Microsoft. The difference between WhartonBrooks and HP, however, is that though WhartonBrooks has always had an active business play, its primary focus is consumers.

Windows phone fans, this phone is for you

Murphy, a tall man of about 6' 2" towered over my 5' 10" frame when he walked into the coffee shop where we chose to meet on the evening of March 6. After some small talk, we got down to business. He showed me the Cerulean Moment, a Windows phone targeted at consumers – but not all consumers, only Windows phone fans. This is an important point to remember.

Considering the state of Windows on phone, with apps and fans leaving the platform, this may seem like the wrong direction for any company, much less such a small company like WhartonBrooks. I posed this candid concern to Murphy because not even the biggest fan, which he claims to be, could ignore this sobering reality.

Murphy is undeterred. He is convinced that of the millions of Windows phone users, there is a core who love the platform and who are waiting for a device to fill the void left by Microsoft's withdrawal of Lumias from the market. He has a point. Many fans have jumped ship in part because there were not many accessible options to replace aging devices.

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Carving out a niche

Sure, the HP Elite x3 is an excellent phone which virtually any fan would want, but the elite pricing keeps it well out of the reach for many consumers. Then there's the Alcatel Pro 4S which is also an appealing option. Beyond these two devices, however, outside of local OEMs with limited distribution, the options have been limited. Murphy is convinced that he can cater the Moment (and other Cerulean devices) to a target market of fans who are committed to the platform. He is resolved that even if he reaches just 10 percent of the core fan base of millions of Windows phone users, he will succeed.

Murphy hopes to reach at least 10 percent of the millions of Windows phone users that remain.

Of course, a consumer focus, unlike HP's enterprise-focus, lends itself to a greater vulnerability to the impact of the app gap. When I asked Murphy about how he would address this, he stated that he is working with local businesses in the areas where the phone will launch, such as banks, to bring apps to the platform.

Of course, the big-name apps like SnapChat and others would be welcomed by many Windows phone fans, but apps for local businesses also have great value to users.

Is the Cerulean Moment a rebranded Coship smartphone?

The following video is hands-on with the Coship Moly X1.

We've heard the concerns and criticisms about WhartonBrooks's "groundbreaking" device simply being a white-label rebranded Coship smartphone. The company's website has boldly brandished images of Coship phones to represent the coming smartphone for months, after all. I asked Murphy about this as well.

The simple answer is, yes, the original device manufacturer (ODM) is the China-based Coship. Murphy elaborated, however, that that the WhartonBrooks team's vision is more important than what ODM manufactured the phone.

WhartonBrooks's goal is a beautiful, affordable, Continuum-enabled Windows phone for everyone.

With that in mind, the final device was not simply a matter of slapping a Cerulean logo on the back of a Coship Moly X1. The company went through many samples, fine-tuning specs and design to ensure that the phone would fit the vision of a beautiful, Continuum-enabled Windows phone optimized for work and play and that would be accessible to everyone. This effort was an elaborate balancing act of getting what Murphy has determined are the right specs, while keeping costs low enough to ensure an affordable retail price.

Will his standards meet with what consumers want and are willing to pay?

Taking a moment to take a look at the Moment

I have been provided with an engineering unit (some features don't work but it is otherwise fully operational) of the Cerulean Moment, and I like the look and feel of this phone. The Gorilla Glass 3 front and back feels nice in hand and looks classy. It is quite the fingerprint magnet, however, and images of shattered glass after an inevitable drop come to my mind. Potential damage notwithstanding, the Gorilla Glass front and rear make for an attractive device.

The white Cerulean logo against the black back of the phone is very attractive in its simplicity. I prefer this circular Cerulean Mobile logo over the parent company's WhartonBrooks logo that has come under some criticism.

Additionally, the almost universally recognized Windows branding, also on the rear of the device, effectively communicates that this phone runs Windows. If WhartonBrooks is ultimately successful, the combined Cerulean and Windows branding may help Windows on phone, and Cerulean smartphones gain mindshare as fans use their phones in public.

Murphy boasts that the Moment has all-day battery life.

The Moment has a five-inch, 1280 x 720 resolution display, which feels small compared to my six-inch Nokia 1520, one of my daily drivers. Five inches seems to be the sweet spot for many users, however, many of whom find the 1520 unwieldily. To be honest, after over three years with the 1520 I find that the Moment's narrower form makes it very comfortable for one-handed use.

Murphy shared that at the stated resolution (which may not impress many fans) the phone gets all-day battery life. I inquired what he meant by "all day," because I recalled Apple's claim of all-day battery life in the iPad Pro, which the company clarified as being only 10 hours.

Murphy anecdotally shared that when he gets to work at 8:30 am, the battery is at 100 percent and when he gets home at 6:30 pm, after an hour of listening to his favorite podcasts (like the Windows Central Podcast) the battery is at 40 percent. If this is accurate and represents what users will ultimately experience, I see a positive reception to a phone that expends only 60 percent of its charge after 10 hours. I look forward to testing the battery life with the unit I have.

The Moment is also very light; it's much lighter than my 1520 and even my 4.7-inch Lumia 1020. The aluminum border around the phone gives this smartphone a classy look reminiscent of some previous generation iPhones. The border is also a nice touch that allows this arguably mid-range phone to break away from a simple black-slab aesthetic.

I say midranger, Murphy says best of Windows 10 Mobile

Murphy doesn't categorize the Moment as a midrange phone, though from my perspective it sits above a low-end device but below a high-end device such as the HP Elite x3. Murphy, argues that the company took the best of Windows 10 Mobile and built a phone around those important features.

Unlike the Coship Moly X1 to which it has been compared, the Moment is sporting a Qualcomm 617 (8952) processor rather than the lower-tier 410 processor the Moly X1 had to work with. For the uninitiated, a 617 processor is a minimum requirement for Continuum on phones. As another one-up to the Moly, the Moment has 32GB (expandable by an additional 64GB) of storage, contrasted to the Moly's 16GB of expandable storage.

Murphy expressed that bumping the specs up from the stock Coship specs was crucial to providing the type of smartphone experience he envisioned. For instance, he discovered that 2GB of RAM did not provide an optimal Continuum experience. Thus, the Moment also has 3GB of RAM in contrast to the Moly X1's 2GBs.

The Moments specs have been bumped up from Coship's base offerings.

Not all specs on the Moment have been bumped up when compared to the Moly X1, however. Both devices have a 5MP front shooter and 13MP rear camera with a dual-LED flash. Unfortunately, there is no dedicated camera button.

Moreover, the camera focusing function is one of the features that is not working on the engineering unit that I have. I'll have to wait for a full review unit to get an idea of the quality of this camera.

Additionally, the Moment, like some other Windows phones, employs on-screen virtual buttons for navigation rather than the usual capacitive buttons. Murphy expressed his initial dislike of this feature, but it has since grown on him.

My wife's Lumia 640 uses virtual buttons, as well, which is a characteristic that didn't appeal to me during my admittedly infrequent use of her phone. During my more frequent use of the Moment, my view is beginning to change. We'll see how I feel after more time with the phone.

A volume rocker and combined dual sim and memory card slot occupy the left side of the device. You'll find the 3.5mm headphone jack at the top. The power button is on the right, and finally, the micro-USB port and speakers round off the base of the device.

Performance goals, perfect for every moment

Murphy shared that the goal for the Moment is to fit into every moment, work or play, of a user's life. As one of the measures for this parameter he determined that the device should be able to handle, without stuttering, streaming a video via Continuum while also playing one of his favorite games such as Dodo Pop, Disney's Magic Kingdom or Asphalt.

Using a Stream Beam Continuum Edition on his television, he tested this and found that within an approximate 10-foot radius the Moment performed as desired. He admits that when moving beyond that range, the streaming content begins to degrade, while the activity on the device remains unchanged. Murphy also owns a 950 XL and an Alcatel Windows phone (among many others). He stated that he hadn't used the 950 XL under those conditions in a while but feels that it performed similarly when he did.

Murphy says the Moment streams video via Continuum and renders games simultaneously without stuttering.

He admits that benchmark comparisons (using benchmark apps) between the devices shows that the 950 XL outperforms the Moment. He adds, however, that he doesn't "see" the difference when using the device.

When using Continuum via the Moment in a traditional desktop setting, Murphy reports that performance is optimal.

Once I, as a Windows phone fan and a member of WhartonBrooks's target market, have an opportunity to review a fully functional unit I will share my opinion regarding the Moments ability in that regard.

Can a Moment replace your aging Lumia?

You simply may not want to replace your older high-end device with what I see as a mid-ranger. Though some of its specs, like 3GB versus 2GB of RAM and Gorilla Glass 3 rather than Gorilla Glass 2, admittedly surpass even those of my "high-end" 1520. Then again, if your device is beginning to show its age, or like my 1520 doesn't support Continuum, the Moment will stand out as a possible option among an admittedly small pool of choices.

When I asked Murphy this question, he responded that when you buy a Cerulean Mobile phone, you are buying from a company that won't abandon you. He states that "other companies only have a toe in the water," meaning they have other investments such as making Android phones, laptops or other devices. The differentiator that WhartonBrooks brings to the table is that it is all-in with Windows phones, he says.

Murphy says WhartonBrooks won't abandon you.

If users are inclined to accept the testimony of this fan that has made tremendous investments in Windows phones, his commitment may echo as a counterpoint to the feelings of abandonment some users endured when Microsoft stopped making Lumias.

It is also an antithesis to the change of direction former Windows phone manufacturer Nuans recently committed to, because it is now making Android-based smartphones.

WhartonBrooks's vision is to remain connected to the fans and to offer continued support post-purchase, according to Murphy. He even shared a vision of wanting to build a device based on fan input. These things reflect the company's commitment both to the platform and users. Of course, dedication and passion alone, which Murphy has no shortage of, are not enough to sustain a business. A company needs customers.

Combined with an affordable retail price, Murphy's stated commitment may be just enough for Windows phone fans to take a chance with the Moment,

What about those 'ground-breaking, disruptive technologies' claims?

WhartonBrooks received a lot of attention. and more than a little criticism, in response to the "ground-breaking and disruptive technologies" it boasted it would bring to the industry in its initial press release. For those who don't remember these ire-inducing claims, an excerpt from that press release follows:

Ground breaking technologies from WhartonBrooks coming …Disruptive technology breaks the mold of current technological thinking to create a new path. WhartonBrooks is bringing new products and services that will radically change the mobile computing industry. WhartonBrooks' disruptive technologies and innovative approach will define the future of computing….WhartonBrooks will bring customer-centric advancements that will enable computing to be more personal, flexible, and secure. We accept the challenge to bring forth the loyalty and excitement that has been historically a description of the Windows Phone fan base.The current approach to balancing work, home, and play is to just add more and more devices. That raises the question… Is 'more' better? Not always. There are times when less is more. With less devices, a person's balancing act (multiple devices) can be simplified. We aim to simplify the computing you do at work, home, and while on the go. Fluid computing is our vision for helping you be productive, be creative, and have fun. We have the one device that takes care of all your needs. It changes with you throughout the day to meet your office and personal needs in every Moment.

With our products … we have teamed up with Microsoft and Qualcomm to develop technologies that will allow you to use your smartphone as a PC, a tablet, and even make phone calls.Now you have the capability to duplicate your enterprise environment while at home or travel…For us, Modular Computing is at the heart of our new products. It is quite simply, your phone functioning as the hub of all that connects you to the world around the corner or around world.The innovations we are bringing to our devices will be the most disruptive since the advent of the smartphone in 2000.The key to our success is the incorporation of your feedback into our products. We want you to love our products and enjoy the experience. Our customers (current and future) have direct access to our engineers, developers, and support teams. This technological disruption (our new path for consumers) is guiding the development of WhartonBrooks and our Cerulean smartphones. With an unbelievable drive to succeed, WhartonBrooks strives to create the best devices for our customers.

Like many readers, I was skeptical about these claims, so I asked Murphy to shed some light on what he meant.

Many of the above claims seem to be WhartonBrooks expressing the merits of a Continuum-enabled smartphone running Windows 10 Mobile as part of the Universal Windows Platform (UWP).