Enter the Neo Reloaded. It’s the Android version Neo fans have apparently been asking for, and — surprise, surprise, it feels almost exactly the same as the original. That’s a good thing. You’d think that a phone with a back plate that splits into two pieces wouldn’t feel very sturdy, but that’s where you’d be wrong.
The Neo Reloaded is solid without feeling overly dense, and while it’ll stretch your pockets more than the average smartphone, you can kinda, sorta make it double as a wallet. The original Neo had a space for a Suica card for Japanese contactless payments, but the Reloaded — being a modern Android device — has NFC built-in, leaving room under the shell for a credit card or ID.
That’s not the only difference, either. The 5-inch 720p panel in the original was swapped out for a 5.2-inch IPS LCD running at 1080p, and there’s a handy fingerprint sensor nestled just below that. At the heart of it all lays one of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 chipsets, making it one of the most widely used slivers of silicon here at Mobile World Congress. More importantly, it’s powerful enough to keep the close-to-stock version of Android 7.1 Nougat onboard running without hiccups. The battery has upgraded to 3,450mAh and the display is swathed in a panel of Dragontail-Pro glass made by Asahi Glass.
That last component is surprisingly telling: why not use Corning’s more recognizable Gorilla Glass? Cost had something to do with it, but Hoshikawa seems to take pride in the idea of a thoroughly Japanese smartphone. Sure, the Reloaded might be assembled in China — so is everything else. The surest sign of his dedication to Japanese representation came in the form of a back plate he pointed me to, pride evident on his face. The back plate was covered with Japanese denim. (And yes, you probably shouldn’t rub that denim-clad phone on a white couch.)
I had always hoped we’d see another NuAns phone, no matter what form it took, but the Windows decision seemed like a costly one. When I asked Hoshikawa why he decided that Windows Phone was the platform that would win him success, he very candidly recalled the pitch Microsoft made: Windows 10, they said, was coming to smartphones with the intent to beat back its competitors. Microsoft was sure its time had come and the company (or at least the representatives Hoshikawa spoke to) sold him a vision of victory. That, clearly, was not meant to be.
Don’t feel too bad, though: Hoshikawa says the Neo Reloaded isn’t meant to replace the Neo so much as complement it. There’s room enough out there for similar devices running wildly divergent operating systems, but Hoshikawa is confident in his decision to go Google — it won’t be long before he launches a crowdfunding campaign to bring the Reloaded to a wider market, and Hoshikawa is gunning for victory.
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