With dozens of smartphones powered by Google’s Android operating system set to hit the market, a different challenger to the Apple iPhone was on display in Tokyo today: the Else, from London-listed Israeli technology company Emblaze, using software made by Access of Japan.

The two companies are making bold claims for the device, long in development under the codename of Monolith. “Imagine a device that is not a phone surrounded by gimmicks you will not use; where the camera literally replaces your digital camera; you get real-time push email wherever you are in the globe; almost every song and film in the 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 and not buried deep inside folders within folders,” said Amir Kupervas, the chief executive of Emblaze Mobile.

The credibility of that statement was impossible to judge while watching Access’s chief technology officer demonstrate the device. From what I could see, the Else has an elegant user interface that uses a capacitive touch display in a different way to the iPhone.

Its menu system is shaped like a fan, and as the user moves their finger in a direction it is replaced with the next menu down, taking the user all the way to the song they want to play or the number they want to call with a single gesture.

Most of the standard applications were on display and there are some neat touches: for example, the Else’s on-screen keyboard (like the iPhone’s), realigned itself to the horizontal or vertical as the phone was turned around.

Again, it is hard to judge without touching, but physical design looked attractive with a high quality screen (specs below for those who like such things). It is smaller and shinier than an iPhone although whether that is a good thing in practice is another matter.

There are plenty of questions still to be answered such as cost and how the Else can compete with the iPhone or Android app stores. The phone is a showcase for the Access Linux Platform, an implementation of the LiMo standard, which is a rival version of Linux for mobiles to Google’s Android.

There are already LiMo handsets on the market – from makers such as Panasonic, NEC, and Motorola – and Access is working closely with Japan’s giant carrier Docomo. Android has built up a lot of momentum, however, with numerous phones set for launch and applications appearing even ahead of that.

Emblaze promises a proper launch for the Else on November 24th. The company said the device is on trial with a number of European and US carriers.


Processor: Texas Instruments OMAP 3430
Bluetooth & Wifi: BT 2.0 & 802.11 b/g
Display: LCD 3.47″ FWVGA 480×854 16:9 aspect ratio
Memory: Internal Flash 16GB, 256MB RAM
Camera: 5 megapixel
Sensors: Tilt, Proximity and Light
Dimensions: 13mm (d) x 56.6mm (w) x 115.6mm (t)

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