Once upon a technology timeline the flip
cell phone was the bee’s knees. And for a time, things were good. Then they
came out with the phone that not only flipped up but sideways as well. And for
time, things were even better. Then Apple came up with a touchscreen and
BlackBerry popularized the ‘full QWERTY’ (a phrase that is sure to confuse
later generations, especially if time is truly cyclical). Nowadays it seems a
phone has to due something truly amazing to even warrant a Fiest-themed commercial.
So why are we looking at the Samsung Alias 2? Why, it doesn’t even have a
single upbeat female vocalist promoting it. But it does flip. Upways and
sideways. Oh, and it has this E-Ink context-sensitive keypad too.
Yes, the Alias 2 might not have a tactile
touch screen and it may never become the envy of your
lawyer/CEO/BlackBerry-addicted friends but it’s cool in its own right. For many
non-smartphone users, texting can be a hassle. Even for those phones that flip
open sideways, a la the Samsung Alias, find the right keys amidst the myriad
numbers, letters, and symbols can be like staring at one of those magic eye
puzzles; eventually what you’re looking for materializes above the visual din.
Well, no more with the Samsung Alias 2 and its dynamic E-Ink keypad (as seen in action here).
In the standard, vertical-flip position the
Alias 2 displays the numbers and menu navigation buttons but flip open the
phone sideways and viola those same keys refresh as a full QWERTY keypad. The
technology makes use of the same technology as the Kindle, ensuring the same
versatility (conceivably Samsung could display any symbol, fully embracing the
idea of a context-sensitive keypad) and its limitations (a brief, though
obviously present ‘refresh’ where the keys all quickly turn to black only to
refresh with new characters when switching modes). The potential here is rather
remarkable. Unfortunately, it’s never actually realized.
You can quash any and all innovative games
your mind’s conjured up with such a dynamic piece of technology. Samsung didn’t
include a single one that used the versatile E-Ink buttons. And you can all but
forget about third-party applications as the Alias 2 ain’t exactly walking with
the swagger of a burgeoning app store behind it.
But that’s part of what makes the Alias 2
so intriguing. It’s like a throwback phone fused with a cutting-edge design.
And for $80 (on a 2-year contract), it’s almost rocking the throwback price.