CES 2010: Hands-on with the ELSE ACCESS Linux Platform-based smartphone

Summary:It was way back in early 2006 when we read that ACCESS and PalmSource announced the ACCESS Linux Platform (ALP) that was initially intended to be the next Palm operating system. While Palm no longer has any ties to ACCESS, we heard in October that Emblaze Mobile Ltd. introduced the first ELSE mobile device running the ELSE INTUITION platform based on ALP. I had the chance to talk with Amir Kupervas, CEO, and Eldad Eilam, Chief Technology Officer, from Else Mobile and captured much of our conversation in the 20+ minute video you see below.

It was way back in early 2006 when we read that ACCESS and PalmSource announced the ACCESS Linux Platform (ALP) that was initially intended to be the next Palm operating system. While Palm no longer has any ties to ACCESS, we heard in October that Emblaze Mobile Ltd. introduced the first ELSE mobile device running the ELSE INTUITION platform based on ALP. I had the chance to talk with Amir Kupervas, CEO, and Eldad Eilam, Chief Technology Officer, from Else Mobile and captured much of our conversation in the 20+ minute video you see below.

The ELSE INTUITION platform, based on ALP, does things on a smartphone that I have been talking about for a while when it comes to these powerful devices doing things for us based on frequency of things we do and on understanding in advance what our intentions are and making usage easy and intuitive. This is one of the smartest phones I have ever seen in use and even though it is still in final development it performs quite well. I like the blue, Tron-looking color scheme, but would like the ability to change it from time-to-time and currently this is the only color scheme available.

Specifications

Specifications have little to do with the ELSE, but for you geeks out there here is what is under the hood:
  • TI OMAP 3430 processor
  • 256 MB RAM
  • Quad-band GSM and tri-band HSPA (850/1900/2100 MHz) for AT&T support in the US
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • 802.11 b/g WiFi
  • 3.47 inch 480x854 262k color capacitive touch screen LCD
  • Internal 16GB flash drive
  • 5 Megapixel camera with auto-focus & advanced stabilization technology
  • A-GPS receiver
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • Tilt, Proximity and Light sensors with adaptive handling
  • 1450 mAh battery
  • Size of 4.55 x 2.22 x 0.51 inches

You will find a few touch sensitive areas on the right of the front panel for global search, back, up, down, and main menu. There is a small OLED status area at the top of the display for signal, date, time, and status and they designed it so it doesn't impact the usable screen area. There is also a RSS ticker stream down below the display.

Four principles of the ELSE

The ELSE was created based on four key principles and goals:
  1. Phone is not the center today: The folks at ELSE understand that those who buy smartphones today are looking for more in their phones than just phone calling and for most of us the phone is not the center of the universe. ELSE is a smartphone where the phone call does not always take precedence so if you are in the middle of taking a photo, listening to a song, watching a movie, or some other task then you will be able to stick with that task since that is what is most important to you at the moment and that other application deserves some respect. There is some cool functionality I showed in my video where you can send a message back to the caller to prompt them to let you know if the call is urgent and then you can decide the next action.
  2. Shared database: There is a shared database across applications so that a completely integrated experience can be provided to the user. You will see integrated information when communicating with your contacts, such as text messages, email communication, and phone calls. HTC has a version of this in their People utility found in various HTC devices.
  3. Out-of-the box experience: ELSE wants new users to have a great out-of-the box experience so they are working with operators to have carrier billing supported for different applications and services while including services and seamless user experiences on the device.
  4. User experience is focus: The ELSE is optimized for the single hand & thumb experience with everything accessible with a right or left thumb on the sPlay menu system. You simply swipe your thumb up and down to view the different main categories, slide your thumb from right to left to dive deeper and deeper into the utility. There is also another menu system for accessing apps and utilities that are not part of the main sPlay UI. Here you will see blocks in the corners and tapping on the corners brings the set of blocks to the center for you to tap and launch. It is very intuitive and as you move around you will see how frequency of use and data context comes into play to make tapping on levels of menus a thing of the past.

Customization, apps, and availability

You will see the cool blue and black color scheme on the ELSE and there is no way to customize or change this since they want to maintain the consistent look and feel of this futuristic device.

There is no SDK or support for 3rd party applications yet since they need to make sure that any 3rd party application that is on the device has the deep integration seen throughout the rest of the device. You will find just about everything you need with contacts, calendar, email, tasks, media player, camera, photo viewer, web browser (ACCESS NetFront version), RSS reader, and more. There is no Twitter or Facebook integration in the first release and IMHO this is something that needs to be updated soon since social networking is important to smartphone owners today.

They said the ELSE would be available in Q2 of 2010 and with the need for carrier support it most likely will be launched on AT&T here in the US. There was no pricing information since the carrier is so involved at this point.

What do you think of the ELSE? Is there a place for a device like this with iPhone, Android, and webOS coming out strong in 2010?

Topics: Data Management, Collaboration, Data Centers, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Linux, Microsoft, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems, Smartphones, Software, Telcos

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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