First Else Smartphone: Something else?

Tech heads have been awaiting the launch of the new First Else Smartphone for months now, and small wonder. If it’s half as good as its makers Else (formerly Emblaze) say it is the iPhone had better watch out.

The biggest selling point is its new linux-based operating system, named Else Intuition. The much vaunted sPlay user interface is designed to be intuitive and allows the user to access all of the phone’s many options with a simple flick of the right thumb.

It is packed with nice touches such as one feature called ‘Silent Interaction’. If you’re busy the phone simply notifies you of the call. You can then ask the caller to decide whether it’s urgent or the kind of thing that can wait until later.

On top of that comes a lorry load of technology: 32 GB of memory, 3G and WiFi, GPS, bluetooth and a five megapixel camera.

In fact to call it a ‘phone’ seems to be something of an under-sell. Else certainly seems to think so. “Imagine a device that is not a phone surrounded by gimmicks you will not use,” says their CEO Amir Kupervas, “where the camera literally replaces your digital camera; you get real-time push email wherever you are on the globe; almost every song and film in the world is one click away; and any one of its multitude of features is reached with no more than one light gesture of your finger.”

Impressive stuff even if the right thumb operation is a little harsh on us lefties. That, though, is a minor complaint. All in all it looks mighty amazing and while it does have a name that only a mother could love, it looks set to become the big hot new gadget of 2010 – or at least it will when Else finally gets it to the market.

As yet there are no firm details about release date or indeed what it will cost. From our point of view that’s never a good sign. But at a rough guess, Else says it will be here in late spring. Until then you can allow yourself a sneak peak at www.firstelse.com.

Access and Emblaze Mobile release ‘Else Intuition’

With the iPhone currently seeming near uncatchable in terms of branding, even companies with established names within mobile technology must resort to good old-fashioned ingenuity to widen their slice of the smartphone market pie. Rather than following the popular trend of churning out a phone that looks a bit like an iPhone but has a bigger screen, that so many manufacturers are peddling, Access and Emblaze Mobile have teamed up to produce the quite progressive Else Intuition.

emblaze-access-else-intuitionBuilt with Access Linux Platform v.3.0, the Else Intuition offers a completely new and innovative user experience. Its major selling point is that it isn’t simply a phone with a set of novelty functions. Its camera, MP3 player and GPS device are of such standard, they claim, that they would challenge the quality of a stand alone device made to perform that sole function. It is, therefore, marketed as a product that is all these devices in one shiny futuristic box. There’s something comfortably Zen about their claim that when you select your required function, say the camera, the Else Intuition actually becomes a camera; it is no longer a phone, but a camera waiting to transform into a phone once more. We all know the frustration of lining up the perfect shot only for your phone to ring. So when you’re using the Else Intuition as a camera or a GPS, the phone won’t automatically interrupt what you’re doing but can be set to leave a message to the caller that you are temporarily engage in more fulfilling artistic pursuits. Of course its primary function is a mobile phone, and so the Else Intuition can be set to interrupt if so desired.

It appears research has shown the designers that busy people rarely have both hands free – a necessity for most smartphone users lacking adequate thumb reach. As a result the main menu can be set on the right and scrolled through in a fan shape. To the relief of left-handed users, the menu can also be set to the centre of the screen.

With a 5 megapixel camera, the Else Intuition could certainly give lower priced cameras a run for their money. However, with a 16 GB flash memory, throwing away your MP3 player may be a little unwise quite yet.

Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X2 keeps WM6.5 fire burning

Since the launch of Apple’s all-conquering handset, there’s been less of a gap and more of an aching chasm between the iPhone and other smartphones on the market. As rival manufacturers begin to make up some of the ground on the so-called ‘Jesus gadget’ there’s been an explosion in the number of cleverly connected devices on the market, particularly in the growing number of Windows mobile devices.

sony-ericsson-xperia-x2

Whereas the iPhone is typically aimed at the causal user (see those famed Mitchell and Webb adverts if you’re in any doubt which camp you fall into), Windows mobile powered handsets, and in fact smartphones in general, are more typically aimed at business types. The XPERIA X2, Sony Ericsson’s latest foray into the market, is no exception, offering connectivity both inside and out of the office. Promising to blur the boundaries between business and leisure the X2 is certainly an improvement on its predecessor, the X1, in almost every regard; but what does it have to offer?

Well what’s immediately apparent is that the XPERIA X2 is hefty, even in the company of the traditionally big-boned smartphone sector. But this additional girth isn’t without merit. Sony Ericsson have typically been renowned for their optical excellence and the X2 is no exception, packing an impressive 8.1MP digital camera with a full x16 digital zoom, complete with ‘Photo light’ software that makes tagging and uploading of your photos seamless. In fact it’s on the multimedia front that the X2 wins most of its battles and its TV out cable is a useful addition enabling you to upload your phone’s content to the big screen.

Sony Ericsson prescribe the phone for those that live in the fast lane, people who need to be connected whether for work, rest and play; and to that end the product is designed with usability in mind. It’s ‘panels’ system is a clever idea, offering users touchscreen access to the phone’s key features through it’s easy to read homepage. With 14 specially designed preloaded panels and 16 more to download, it’s easy for users to separate out work, communications and entertainment as well as staying up to date with the information that matters the most with a daub of a digit.

The handset also debuts the Windows 6.5 operating system for the manufacturer, which is a vast improvement on previous Windows mobile incarnations. The XPERIA X2 also includes a slide out full QWERTY keyboard, which, when coupled with the ability to work with Microsoft office documents on the move, makes it an attractive option for those looking to take the office with them wherever they are.

iOwner wrist cramp? Take a stand with Crabble

The iPhone has come a long way in recent years, with video, apps and skins to name a few milestones. So when we spied the cryptically-named Crabble iPhone accessory we were mystified how a credit card-sized wedge of polypropylene could dare try to resolve the one issue we had with our smartphone and penetrate where the whizzy apps and pricey add-ons had tried to gloss.

crabble-stand-iphone

See, we can’t get enough of watching video on our iPhone – on the train, in the office, yes, sometimes even in front of the telly. But second to the inevitable battery burn, it doesn’t half get annoying having to prop up your player to get a decent hands-free micro-cinematic experience. It’s us coming to this woeful realisation which Crabble aims to capitalise on, lauding itself as the wallet-sized solution to the misery of iOwners’ wrist cramp. Perhaps not the most pressing woe for the plucky iPhone owner, but a valid call nonetheless.

Crabble could be filed under one of those gadgets you never knew you needed ‘til you had one. In fact its diminutive stature is such that it could be filed almost anywhere. Cramming oodles of features into its waspish frame, it slips effortlessly into your wallet in wait for any phone-propping emergency.

Crabble isn’t Seskimo’s first foray into phone stands. Indeed, its predecessor the Batrest has a loyal following. Crabble flies with the bat’s best features, adds some sweet functionality – and all for the less-than-princely sum of £3.49.

Crabble offers a choice of propping orientation – landscape for movies, portrait for incoming calls, appointments, as a bedside clock etc. You can even vary the degree of tilt in landscape form for optimum viewing comfort.

If your day sees you enter the more challenging environment of the train or plane, those standard-issue sloping plastic tables are no match for its non-slip silicone rubber claws; a reassuring safeguard against turbulence.

Although Crabble has its heart set on the mighty iPhone, this versatile little fellow caters for the dimensions of the iPod Touch and many other small media players, MP3 players and smartphones – it even accommodates some protective cases at a push. And with your pick of six designs, it coordinates with the fanciest public transport upholstery.

So whether you’ve been searching far and wide for an affordable, compact smartphone stand or you’ve been oblivious to your long-standing propping problem, Seskimo’s niche idea will likely occupy a niche in your life very soon.

LiveStream brings streaming video to iPhone

Online video, as we are often told is the future of broadcast. With heavyweights such as YouTube introducing 1080p streaming next week and the growing ubiquity of broadband, new and exciting distribution technologies are popping up on a weekly basis. Producers of online content were giving yet another weapon in their growing arsenal last week as Livestream introduced the ability to stream content live to iPhones.

livestream-procaster-iphone

Livestream,(formerly Mogulus) allows users to broadcast live video from a virtual studio to an online audience. Much more than a simple feed, Livestream includes the ability to mix multiple live cameras, overlay graphics, and desktop streaming with 3d effects. Available in ad-supported free and paid flavours, Livestream has a web-based app as well as a desktop client – Procaster.

The iPhone streaming functionality offers a turn-key streaming service using H.264 HTTP live streaming, which is included in the native Quicktime. Livestream Procaster includes a free streaming encoder, which means that no third party application or license needs to be purchased in order to stream live to the iPhone using Livestream.

Set up was relatively straight forward. The desktop client was relatively small and available for the Mac and PC. Before you get started you need to sign up for a free Livestream account that gives you a www.livestream.com/YourNameHere URL for your viewers to head to. A few minutes later I was ready to go.

The Procaster software is incredibly straightforward, yet allows you to broadcast images from your webcam, screen or game you are running – with the ability to switch between them on the fly. You can even integrate a Twitter feed. I gave Livesteam a go and broadcast footage of the office coffee pot to the world, alternating between a DV cam connected via Firewire 400 and a Logitec Pro 9000 webcam.  iPhone streaming over a weak 3G signal was a little laggy, but when I switched to a 2Mbps Wi-Fi connection the quality improved dramatically. The image quality was surprisingly sharp from my Logitech Pro 9000 webcam and captured fast moving images at a reasonably smooth frame rate. The DV footage was clear but seemed to increase lag to an iPhone on a 3G signal.

One significant advantage this system has is that viewing the feed is as simple as navigating to the www.livestream.com/YourNameHere URL from the iPhone browser. “A key breakthrough is that the service doesn’t require any proprietary player or application to be installed on the iPhone. Producers are free to integrate the iPhone live stream with their own website, iPhone portal or iPhone application using the API provided,” explained Livestream CEO and co-founder Max Haot.

Whilst lacking the sophisticated feature set of more expensive packages such as BoinxTV (Mac OS X only) for a simple broadcasting set up, such as a conference, open mic night or low key gig for a band, Livestream offers a compelling proposition.

BlackBerry’s successor is causing a storm

Blessed for its simplicity and effortlessness, even the most techno-phobic, gadget gormless and mobile-phone moronic of users could find their way around a BlackBerry with ease and without frustration. With its touch-screen display it may take little while longer for clumsier of fingers to master the new BlackBerry Storm2 9520’s responsiveness, but once mastered, there is no turning back.

It may be similar in appearance to the original, but the BlackBerry Storm2’s finely-tuned software, allows for greater user-interaction leading to it being dubbed as being ‘vastly superior’.

Blackberry Storm 2

In an increasingly technologically dependant world, whereby speed is of the essence, the 9520s built-in Wi-Fi makes surfing the web seriously swift –its absence was lapped up by critics of the original BlackBerry Storm. The 9520 accomplishes greater consumer contact by relying solely on electronic technology called “Surepress”.  Whilst the original consisted of several mechanical components to create the physical stimulation of ‘clicking’, its predecessor’s absolute internal electronic dependency means it imitates an actual keyboard in a much more authentic and efficient manner.

We’ve all been exposed at some time or another to some fortuitous phone fumbling. Toddlers squeal in delight at hurtling high-tech devices across the room, and as a result precious talk time can quickly be eaten up. Not with the BlackBerry Storm2 9520, as another much welcomed feature is that the new model’s screen becomes completely ‘solid’ when in off mode, completely eradicating the chance of any ‘accidents’ occurring.

The features available of this elegant machine are phenomenal and can barely be skimmed upon in a short review. The 3.2 megapixel camera allows for happy snapping and quality shots, whilst its capability at syncing ten email accounts may seem at bit excessive, but is available in case you need such a vast amount of electronic mailing providers. But perhaps the most clever little detail of Vodaphone’s latest delicacy, is no matter which way up you pull the 9520 out of your pocket, its screen will always conform itself to face its owner – accelerometers at their most admirable! Navigation is another neat attribute as BlackBerry and Google maps are both available to pilot possessors.

With this immense amount of features, for the less ‘technologically gifted’ it is easy to be intimidated by the BlackBerry Storm2 9520. Although it is difficult to deny that this time Vodafone have really become the vanguard of mobile phone technology.

Sky Mobile TV comes to App Store

Not content with only allowing XBox users the chance to view their wares, Sky are now offering iPhone devotees the opportunity to stream live TV right into their palm.

Channels such as Sky News, as well as their Sky Sports package, will be available via subscription, allowing you to watch top football action whilst on that tortuously pallid train journey or as you sup that wispily frothy latte in your favourite wi-fi enabled coffee shop.

Parting with £6 a month will see those with an iPhone (or iPod Touch) also able to pick up ESPN and the equine mainstay, At The Races.

Sky Sports on iPhone

Is it worth it? The live Barclays Premier League football on offer is undoubtedly the biggest draw here; the sport has proven to be a major factor in the success of Sky’s satellite service, and conversely, the investment and nourishment Sky has given to English football has injected real money, glamour and pizzazz into the game.

But we’re all used to taking in Torres v Terry on expansive TVs, both at home and in the pub – vast plains of televisual majesty, each blade of grass bristling under your nose and the crowd’s passion reverberating through the living room and your heart too.

And with this in mind, hand-held football threatens to be one epic comedown. The two darlings of Apple, the iPhone and the iPod Touch both boast a high quality display, crisp and sharp. But football is a kinetic, intricate game, brimming with subtle flourishes and – well, a pretty minuscule ball! One look away and you might lose sight of it.

Football is often seen as a communal activity too, from the 22 players on the pitch to the spectators simultaneously breathing in each kick of the ball. And nothing quite beats seeing your team slay your greatest rivals with a bunch of beer-stained mates.

Indulging in live iPhone football whilst lonesome threatens the existence of this particular enchanting past-time, but if you’re away from the big screen and rabidly ponderous of the Manchester Utd. vs Liverpool score, then there’s probably little better way of checking out the game – it’s just a fingertip away. That’s if you can see the ball, mind.