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The fence and the squirrel. Part 2

For those of you that missed it, last week I was asking everyone to recommend me a phone for AT&T that did not suck balls (for more info on ball sucking see the iPhone.)  This will be a continuing series that details my quest for a new handset, from research all the way through to the personalization of whatever phone I end up with while taking in feedback and comments to help steer my decision making.   To let you guys see how things are going, I’m doing my first spread on a phone I’m considering and why.  I mentioned the First Else phone in the last post so let’s put a face on it and explain why this may be my next phone.

Specs are always a good place to start.  Coming from my Fuze I want to go up in screen size.  The First Else satisfies this with 3.5″ of FWVGA which allows for 16:9 video playback without cropping issues suffered by standard WVGA screens.  Big plus for media playback.  It’s definitely capacative with tactile feedback and is rocking the TI Omap 3430 processor (Droid, Pre, N900) scalable from 600MHz down.  Ambient light, tilt, gps, and proximity sensors on board.  Wifi and bluetooth 2.0+EDR included as well with around 16 or 32gb fixed onboard storage.  5 megapixels on the camera with a 1450mAh battery to power this thing.  The OS itself is a Linux base with a custom UI so it’s about as open source as you get.  That takes care of all my hardware requirements.  Now that we’ve put a face on it, let me explain why all these elements coagulate into cellular communications nirvana.

There are a few things going on here that I think are fairly revolutionary for mobile devices.  The first thing that sets this phone off is the menu.  This is the least impressive design feature they have in the same way that Sir Isaac Newton’s least impressive accomplishment was Calculus.  If you watch the video above you can see that it’s possible to access nearly every feature or action on your phone with one press.  That’s it.  No more multiple taps to navigate the phone.  You get right to the point every time.  You can even set up gestures so that by drawing letters, symbols, vulgar pictures, whatever on the area to the left of the menu you can instantly launch a predertimined program or action.  This is pretty sweet.  No more pages and pages or even folders and folders of kinetically scrolled apps for me to wade through. 

The second innovation that makes you realize no one has been really thinking about how to do things differently is contextual reminders.  Why the hell hasn’t anyone unified all the phone’s info from contacts and tasks and calendars?  Brock mentioned this in my last post and I feel its an important difference that has a huge impact on user experience with the phone.  Traditional alarms are chronologically based affairs.  They go off at a certain time to signal an event.  What if you want to be reminded of something that has nothing to do with time?  How many of us have forgotten the milk on our way home?  No more forgetting to wish loved one’s happy birthday or to thank bar skanks for drunk sex.  The First Else phone actually has reminders based on time, location, or contacts.  The ease of creating these notes is another huge step in giving the user a way to enter in reminders quickly.  If you turn the phone upside down the g-sensor changes the camera’s shutter button into a voice recorder button that integrates the info into the rest of your programs like calendars and contacts.  This is the sort of intuitive design that is very apparent all throughout the phone. 

My favorite feature amongst all of these designs is the silent communication.  The website has a video showing how this is integrated here(the first video is the intro you have to skip.  Hit play after you skip it).  Basically, when someone calls you can have your phone, before it goes to voicemail ask the caller if it is urgent.  From here you can decide to answer the call, ignore the call, or have the phone tell them you will return the call in a user adjustable time frame.  All this is done by the phone without voicemail.  You can even record personalized greetings for this at the phone level. 

These are the top three design innovations that I believe shows more thought and research into consumer needs than any other smarthphone offering on the market.  Things like a dedicated RSS feed along the bottom of the phone, live paper which auto-updates news based on user preferences like a stumbleupon(which for those of you that don’t know is like crack for the internet) newspaper, and a dedicated display for things like battery life, cell signal and notifications that preserves the main screen for content show that Emblaze built this phone from the ground up for a total experience.  Let me know if I’m being blinded by innovation with no substance here, but this thing seems to do what I need in its tentative state.  Is this thing worthy of being added to our staff, and more importantly being my next phone?  Thanks to for the video and for the pic.