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Edelweiss Smartphone Overview

Incredibly Powerful New Edelweiss Smartphone Developed by Emblaze Mobile, Manufactured by Sharp in Japan & Powered by ACCESS (PalmSource) ALP Operating System Provides Possible Insights Into Future Palm NOVA Devices Due in 2009


If I had to vote for the worst marketing organisation in the world I would have to vote for ACCESS (ex-PalmSource) and also EMBLAZE Mobile – two companies that are apparently about to release a stunning smartphone called Edelweiss (image above) without apparently wanting to let too many people know about it…

So what’s the deal?  An Israeli “technology design house” called EMBLAZE Mobile has been working alongside the Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer SHARP and also Japanese mobile operating system developer ACCESS (owner of PalmSource and original Palm OS) to release the first ALP (ACCESS Linux Platform) powered smartphone in the world (due next month in Russia).

Edelweiss Smartphone - Rotation

Until recently such an announcement would have made me yawn a bit but after looking at this smartphone more closely I have to admit that I’m getting _extremely_ excited.  For starters as you can appreciate from the various pictures in this post the device itself looks pretty slick and the fact that it’s manufactured by a company such as SHARP gives me the confidence that it’s extremely solid and well built.

Next is the fact that the Edelweiss hardware specifications pack quite a powerful punch (vast understatement):

  • Main Display: 3.5” LCD FWVGA at 480 x 854 pixels! with 262,000 colours
  • Touch Panel: Capacitive, glass, anti-fingerprints, anti-glare
  • Tactile Feedback: Vibration Feedback
  • Memory: 8GB or 16GB Internal
  • Camera: 3.2 Megapixels, autofocus, 3x Digital Zoom
  • Processors: Dual processor (TI OMAP 3 Series Processor + BB Processor)
  • GPS / AGPS: Built-in GPS Module
  • Wireless Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g (54Mbps), HSDPA (3.6Mbps), Bluetooth 2.0
  • Sensors: Tilt, Proximity and Light Sensors with adaptive handling
  • Sync & Charge: MicroUSB connector with _full_ USB 2.0 support
  • Audio Connector: Standard 3.5mm audio jack for stereo headset and voice communication
  • Cellular Technologies: GSM (Quad Band), GPRS, EDGE, WCDMA (UMTS Triple Band)
  • Battery: Lithium Ion, 1450mAh with 8 hours Talk Time and 550 hours Standby Time
  • Video Codecs: MPEG, MPEG4, H261, H263, H264, 3GP, 1420, OGG, WMV, MOV, QT, ASF, 3GPP
  • Audio Codecs: MP3, WAV, WB/NB, AMR-NB, AAC, AAC+, MIDI, Real Audio
  • Physical Dimensions: 115x56x12.3mm (exactly same thickness as iPhone 3G)
  • Weight: 130 grams (iPhone 3G is 133 grams)

I don’t know about you but the above specs certainly got my FULL attention and I feel that if it had been Palm making this device it would undoubtedly be receiving a LOT more attention than this…

As seasoned smartphone owners know however, the hardware is only one part of the equation so what about the operating system software?  I have not unfortunately had the opportunity to hold one in my hands (yet) but a few flash video files (screenshots below) on the Edelweiss website nonetheless make a very good impression.

 Edelweiss - Today Screen Edelweiss Smartphone - Today Screen 2

For starters, the Edelweiss sports a “scrolling Today screen” (above) containing any number of “widgets” (part of the recently announced NetFront Browser Widgets) that can presumably be added or removed as you like.  A few of these widgets seen here include: Weather, Clock, Twitter, Calendar, World Time/Weather, News, Web Search and more.

  Edelweiss Smartphone - Photos

Additionally, as described in the specifications the Edelweiss includes a tilt sensor to among others easily and quickly switch from portrait to landscape mode.  Above you can see the Pictures application which offers full scrolling, zoom, panning and more functionalities.  [Note that the upper left corner of the device has Orange as the carrier and I wonder if we might yet see Edelweiss coming out in the UK…]

Edelweiss Smartphone - Apps Edelweiss Smartphone - Launcher

Next is the “Widget Player Guide” (screen above left) and also the Launcher which here includes Contacts, Calendar, Video Player, Photos, Call Log, Doc Viewer, NetFront Browser, Music Player, Tools and Memo.

All of the above applications are clearly part of the new ALP operating system but it’s worthwhile noting that thanks to ALP this Edelweiss smartphone offers compatibility with both native Mobile Linux, existing Palm OS Garnet software (powering current Treo and Centro smartphones) as well as Java (J2ME) applications.

Overall the design and specification of the Edelweiss smartphone are clearly superb as it has virtually everything that a power user might ever want or need to have – from the super high-resolution large touchscreen, dual processor, 3.2MP camera, USB 2.0 connectivity, WiFi, GPS and so much more. 

It’s true that I’m not personally a fan of touchscreen-only devices without keyboard but clearly many others are and the Edelweiss would seem to be a perfect solution for them – if only it ever makes it stateside or becomes available unlocked somewhere else.  Either way I definitely would like to get my hands on one…

Having said this it is worthwhile noting that EMBLAZE Mobile is also working on another project with SHARP and ACCESS named Monolith – “a futuristic project to create an integrated communications device with a unique user interface and graphics design, the likes of which has never been seen in the industry” according to the company.  Monolith is scheduled for release sometime in 2009.

Now all of this brings me back to Palm and the promised new NOVA powered devices coming in 2009.  Could we possibly be seeing this level of specifications and software features from Palm soon?  Will we see a touchscreen-only device?  Considering how long we’ve all been waiting I certainly hope so!!!

I’m curious to see how you would feel if Edelweiss had actually been a Palm smartphone:

Edelweiss Smartphone

Would you buy this Edelweiss Smartphone if it was from Palm?

Yes (Unlocked $549)
Yes (Wireless Carrier $199)
  Current Results

In the meantime, while I’m certainly not unhappy at all with my current Treo Pro I have to admit that the thought of a future smartphone from Palm with an operating system more closely associated with the usability of the existing Palm OS certainly keeps me excited about things to come in 2009…

Treonauts are always full of energy

Posted by Andrew on October 16, 2008 at 12:40 PM
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by Howard | Oct 16, 2008 1:43:06 PM

If it's backward-compatible with some specialized Palm software, it'll be winner for me!

by theoinpa | Oct 16, 2008 2:23:32 PM

It is suprising to see so much coverage for this, when I feel that this is really just a gimmick for Access to create (or gage the interest in) a proof of concept. I can't imagine it will be more than a couple hundred test units made if they are made at all. This smacks highly of Vaporware, considering Access just popped up with this and the specs are so outstanding...sorry but I can't spend any of my saved Nova hope on this;)

by Jack | Oct 16, 2008 3:21:16 PM

The specs on this device look pretty sweet indeed. While I too prefer the hardware keyboard, an onscreen with a screen like that may not be too bad, depending upon the implementation. Keep us posted Andrew, and thanks.

by alayan | Oct 16, 2008 6:22:28 PM

I acutally think it's nothing sepcial. There are 3-4 similar phones that look better and give the same impression. I'll stick half-heartedly with Treo Pro. I really like PalmOS, but currently the hardware with it is just not good enough. And with WinMo the software is .... just 3rd grade. I'd keep it SLIM/SIMPLE/FAST. Why is that SO HARD? ACCESS... was a mistake. A big one. Sometimes I feel that the guys in Palm are just getting SLOW/HEAVY/COMPLICATED just what their product.. shouldn't be.

by alayan | Oct 16, 2008 6:22:46 PM

I acutally think it's nothing sepcial. There are 3-4 similar phones that look better and give the same impression.

by alayan | Oct 16, 2008 6:23:22 PM

I'll stick half-heartedly with Treo Pro. I really like PalmOS, but currently the hardware with it is just not good enough. And with WinMo the software is .... just 3rd grade. I'd keep it SLIM/SIMPLE/FAST. Why is that SO HARD?

by jmg_NX21 | Oct 16, 2008 10:51:16 PM

Sure there are... but where has Palm devices been since SONY left the market???

Where is WiFi on a Palm OS device.
(Except I do use the keyboard...)

by Jack | Oct 17, 2008 11:04:49 AM

@alayan While I agree with your statement in general, I would ask if they have the backwards compatibility with the legacy Palm OS programs. Not only does this one indicate it has that compatibility, but it also does Java apps. That makes it potentially a very powerful option for those who have a lot invested in the Palm OS.

by Michael | Oct 18, 2008 5:57:15 AM

Woooow. Awesome. Seems to be the better iPhone !! Please, please, bring this device to market as soon as possbile.

by Dave | Oct 19, 2008 8:36:41 AM

Of course, NOVA is NOT made by ACCESS, so trying to do a comparison between this thing and what we will see from NOVA are two different things. There are three elements we need to look for when we see NOVA in action:

1. Backwards compatibility with the old "PalmOS" applications. How good will the compatibility be, basic stuff, or will the old Tomtom Navigator 6 for PalmOS work on it? Only time will tell.

2. The UI. How similar is it to the devices we prefer? One strike against the Windows based smartphones is the UI just feels bad to me(and others). The current PalmOS devices may feel clunky at times due to the ancient OS, but the UI is intuitive and easy to use.

3. How fast/responsive will NOVA based devices be, both in compatibility mode as well as in "native" mode? Features and such will be different from device to device, but the overall speed and ease of use are critical.

Remember, Palm was going to use ALP until something happened to cause Palm to decide to go back to square one and do it themselves. As a result, no matter WHAT ACCESS may have come up with, it won't be NOVA. Having Linux as the base may give us some clues about the performance we may see, but that is about it.

by Joe | Oct 22, 2008 11:58:35 AM

The poll has the wrong question. Never mind if it were from Palm, the question should be "would you buy one if it we on the store shelves right now?" I'm a bit sour on Palm today, since my third TX just succumbed to fatal hardware failure; I'd be more likely to buy a device from Sharp than one from Palm with the same specs. I said "Maybe" to the poll question about "if it were from Palm", but would have said "Yes (Wireless Carrier $199)" as it stands now, since it is apparently manufactured by Sharp.

Incidentally, as a TX user, I'm looking for a more reliable high end PDA, and don't care much if it's a smart phone. My problem is that I'd like to keep my PalmOS apps. Most smart phones are good phones with so-so PDAs grafted on; I want a good PDA, and if an OK phone is grafted on that's nice too. And I'd like to carry it around in a pouch on my belt for 14 months without it breaking. This just might be the answer.

by Peter | Oct 30, 2008 12:48:36 PM

I don't get the wohawoow over this phone, its an iPhone clone.. so what? no biggy to come out with something already done from some1 else. Who cares what OS is used as long it works problem free.
It looks like an iPhone ... even the icons, it functioned like an iPhone and cost around the same as an iPhone.

If I have to choose it would be the Apple iPhone instead. Why choose something newly developed which looks,function and prob feels same as something already for year(s# in the market?

The advantage is that Apple has the iPhone out for a while and fixed some starting problems already, even released a new updated iPhone version and is able to get far more experience into OS and production then Sharp and Co. with the Edelweiss.

The Edelweiss has a market chance if it gets FAR below iPhone price. Its for those who want an iPhone but can't effort it or just not willing to pay that much. If they can't get the price down why anybody would want a new developed unexperienced #marketwise)iPhone clone if the real thing is just there ready to grab?

I have seen a lot of Sharp products and yes there production is of good quality but the quality of Apple products outbeat Sharp. Never seen anything from Sharp as good as Apple.

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