Samsung Handset Keypad Morphs Using E-Ink


Verizon Wireless (s VZ) just outed the new Samsung Alias 2 handset with its unique keypad and hinge system. Like the original Alias phone, the Alias 2 offers a dual-hinge: You can open it like a traditional clam-shell with the top hinge, or you can turn the phone into a landscape mode and use the longer, side hinge. This two-orientation type of design normally provides a usability challenge, since the keys can be read in two different directions. When I look at the original Alias, for example, I get all befuddled by keys that have letters going one way and numbers that go in a perpendicular order. Here’s a pic of the original layout, so you can understand the challenge:

samsung-alias-2With the Alias 2, Samsung has integrated E-Ink technology, similar to that used on Amazon’s (s AMZN) Kindle. Since the keypad labels are actually little, low-powered E-Ink displays, they can be rearranged based on which hinge is active, and therefore, have the proper orientation:

Alias2_H4WebThe black-and-white keypad may appear a little “old-school,” but it looks easier to use from where I stand. Aside from the new E-Ink technology, there’s not much else that makes the Alias 2 stand out. It’s a solid feature-phone with EV-DO, Bluetooth, a 2-megapixel camera, and microSD slot. Verizon says it also supports RemoSync which allows PIM synchronization with office PCs. You can nab the new Alias 2 today for $79.99 after a $50 mail-in-rebate and a new two-year agreement.



that’s pretty sweet, and a nice demonstration of the usefulness of virtual keyboards.

other than that, i’ve seen these sorts of phones in japan, and there are a handful of models like this available from the different carriers. some of them are just confusing, with static buttons. some of the smarter ones have a physical sheet or something that slides behind the buttons when flipped into clam-shell mode, so that the button labels are oriented correctly.

this dual-hinge design is an interesting twist, but never really appealed to me.

I really do wonder what verizon is paying to keep that design exclusive to them.

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