The founder of Sugr, the wireless speaker from China that hit a $60,000 Kickstarter goal in January 2015, told VentureBeat that the product was designed in homage to late Apple founder Steve Jobs and iOS. These comments come as Sugr launches globally for $229, after successfully shipping units to Kickstarter backers in June and July.
“Besides the technology, we want to present our respect to Apple and Jobs, so we designed the speaker to be iOS icon shaped with authentic wood surface,” Sugr CEO Sean Song said. Apple is continuing an aggressive push in China, where iPhones remain status symbols due to their perceived quality, as well as their U.S. design and the fact that they outprice much of a market dominated by cheaper Android phones by the likes of Huawei, Xiaomi, and Samsung.
Indeed, one of the first thing that strikes you about the Sugr Cube is its beautiful design, finish, and attention to detail. It’s available in both maple and cherry woods, sourced from North America, and comes with some nifty hardware that allows you to skip tracks (forwards or backwards) by tilting the unit 45 degrees on one of its corners. Placing your hand on top of the unit pauses or starts a track.
I’ve been using it to play Spotify, which connects easily via AirPlay on my iPhone. It’s also compatible with Android and services like Pandora, and has 4GB of internal storage, in case you want to load up songs on the device itself and take it outside. It claims 24 hours of nonstop playback on a single charge. The dedicated Sugr app allows you to interface with the speaker, and set up is straight forward. In my experience, the iOS app could be better, but the company says it’s pushing out regular updates every 2-3 weeks.
This thing gets loud, going up to 90dB, and the sound quality is excellent. The Sugr team hope to draw comparisons with big name brands like Bose and Sonos. “The team spent a whole year building hardware and software prototypes,” Song said. “Looking for factory partners, many of them refused us: they did not understand why we [incorporated] many aspects in one product.”
He continued: “We were frustrated sometimes. But we did meet people who understood us. We found a speaker factory who agreed to offer our customized driver unit. We found a wood factory who spent six months with us to tune the wooden box of Sugr Cube. We together tried over 20 kinds of wood, and 12 kinds of painting processes.”
Issues with the capacitive touch sensor not working correctly in low temperatures were eventually solved, and what we’re left with is the unit available today. After playing with it for a few days, I can recommend it. The company says it ships to the U.S. in 5-7 days, and right now it’s available at a discounted holiday price of $199. Of course, Bose also has wireless speakers on sale at this price point, including the SoundLink Mini speaker II. Sonos has the similarly priced Play:1.
But if you feel like getting something a bit more exotic and handcrafted, the Sugr Cube could be a fun New Year’s gift for yourself or a loved one.