A fairly new company called Emblaze Mobile has just unveiled its brand new upcoming phone, named the First Else. Details on carriers and pricing aren’t yet ready for primetime, but Emblaze had a press event today in which they showed off the First Else. Take a look at Engadget’s coverage of the event for a video of the keynote.
The idea behind the First Else is that it will provide a “revolutionary’” and intuitive interface. ‘The phone should learn the user, instead of the other way around’ was sort of the theme of the keynote that was given today. Even if you are familiar with phone operating systems, the one running on the First Else probably won’t ring a bell. Instead of basing the phone’s software on one of the big OS players (ie: WebOS, Android, etc.), Emblaze custom built the software starting with a foundation of something called ALP or Access Linux Platform, which hasn’t been used by any of the other big phones to date (iPhone, Droid, Palm Pre, etc). As such, what’s most intriguing about the phone is the interface.
Two major concepts apply to the First Else’s interface: the so called fish-eye and sPlay. The fish-eye concept brings everything to the center of the screen. So if you are scrolling through a list of contacts, the one in focus (and options for it) are somewhat magnified and highlighted in the center of the screen. This doesn’t sound very revolutionary, but sPlay leans a bit more in the direction of revolution.
SPlay fans out content around a circle that resides on the right side of the phone. This appears to be a fairly efficient way to fit a lot of content in a small space, meaning you can see a lot of information with little scrolling. For example, you could select the contacts section of the sPlay by rolling over it, and pretty quickly thereafter, you’d see all of your contacts fanned out. This is different than most ‘app’ interface approaches that we see on smartphones today which require opening individual apps for access to different content. SPlay on the other hand, seems to connect the user more directly to their content by showing everything within the fan. SPlay is probably much easier to understand after seeing it in action. Here is a video of an early look of the First Else:
While some parts of the interface feel a bit overloaded on eye-candy, I feel like sPlay could really shake things up in the world of phone interfaces. The only issue to consider is the expandability. With the “app” concept, you can simply download an application which has it’s own interface and features, but with sPlay, it might be hard for application creators to make applications that retain their features while at the same time continue to fit the sPlay concept. Can you imagine how a Facebook app might work with sPlay? It is certainly possible, but it would like wildly different from the Facebook apps that we might be used to.
So far Emblaze seems to have been very quiet about the web browser on the device. My hopes are high for performance because all of the demonstrations of the device thus far have shown it to smoothly run the seemingly advanced interface. The First Else is using most of the same guys that power the iPhone, Droid, and Palm Pre, so we can at least expect the performance to be on par with said phones.
One thing that has me worried is the obvious catering toward right-handed people. I’d say that the device could just as easily be flipped over, but there are dedicated buttons on the right side of the unit, and indicators at the top. What happens when a user doesn’t have their right hand available to grab the device with (keep your minds out of the gutter!)? Or if they are predominately left-handed? We’ll have to wait and see how the First Else will handle this little issue.
If you’d like some more technical coverage of the First Else, check out Engadget’s great article.