April 4, 2004, Updated September 13, 2012

The launch of the Alpha 8 represents an important milestone in cellular communication as this is the first time a carrier has an almost complete control over the handset design and applications. Is it a mobile phone, a digital recorder, camcorder or MP3 player?

According to Israeli communications company Emblaze Mobile, the device in question – the Alpha 8 – is the world’s first customized multimedia handset, and it contains all of those elements.

Last week with much fanfare, the company announced the delivery of the handset to Partner Communications, the top mobile network operator in the country, which operates under the Orange brand in Israel. Even though it looks like every person in the street uses a cell phone, Israel has a relatively small mobile phone market which will serve as a testing ground for the new phone as Emblaze looks to sign up leading operators in Europe and Asia.

“We are in no way so presumptuous to think that we can immediately become the next Nokia,” Eli Reifman, chief executive of the Ra’anana-based company told the New York Times. “We are very far behind that. We have to start and this is a good way to start.”

Reifman may be a little modest. The launch of the Alpha 8 represents an important milestone in cellular communication as this is the first time a carrier has an almost complete control over the handset design and applications. The handset was designed by Emblaze Mobile alongside Partner, chiefly to incorporate video and games capability as key applications and value added services revenue driver for Partner.

“An Israeli company for the first time will be on the prestigious list of companies like Nokia and others that develop cellphones,” said Emblaze spokesman, Doron Cohen.

Partner Communications launched the 2.5G mobile media services last week to its 2.1 million subscribers as well as targeting the youth market in Israel. According to Partner’s Vice President of Marketing, Iris Beck, the handsets are central to Partner’s strategy to target the youth market, and the company has tried to encompass all the attributes that young customers desire.

“Emblaze Mobile has provided a flexibility to connect content and services on a mobile device,” Beck said. “The cooperation with Emblaze and their business model has allowed Partner to be involved in the design process and to define Partner’s requested specifications.”

Partner is planning to use marketing concepts built around pop stars, sports teams and computer games. And by all early accounts, young people should love the Alpha 8. It’s the most technologically advanced on the market with large TFT color screens, a built-in camera that can also film video, an MP3 music player and a video player. The phone will also be able to transmit multimedia messages and receive live television, the company says.

“It is a proud moment for us to launch the world’s first truly customized multimedia phone and also be the first company from Israel to launch a mobile phone,” said Reifman. “This heralds the start of revenues for Emblaze Mobile from delivery of the handsets. We are also speaking to other global operators in Europe and Far East and hope to make further announcements later this year.”

According to Israeli paper Yediot Aharonot, some 100 Israeli companies participated in the two and half year development of the phone, with the actual phone being made with Flextronics in Austria.

The Alpha P8, based on the Emblaze M5 model, is one of the most technologically advanced devices today with capabilities that include video camera (more than 30 minutes of video recording), Still images digital camera (more than 1,000 pictures), one of the largest color screens in the industry (2.2 Inch Mini TV 65,000 colors), 3D gaming capabilities, Java gaming, “Skins” application for changing under interface graphics look & feel, 7-way conference call, 3 hours tape recording, MMS, Email support and more.

Specifically designed shortcuts integrated into the phone’s navigation give users a one-touch “Hot button” access to operator services. Partner and Emblaze Mobile have also provided one touch access to the video menu, which includes video camera mode, an ‘on demand’ video portal, personal photo album and MMS. The video facility is capable of capturing 15 frames of footage per second, and playback at up to 30 frames per second.

Emblaze’s executives say they have an advantage over competitors because they are the only cellphone designer capable of producing a high-end phone in small order batches of 50,000. It’s one of the few Israeli endeavors in the last decade to make a major piece of consumer hardware, reported the Times, saying most companies functioned by selling behind-the-scenes software and network equipment to large computer and phone operators.

“We are not just an Israeli company,” Emblaze’s Cohen said. “It’s Israeli-based and we are producing cellphones, but we are selling across the world. Our intent is not just to work with Partner in Israel. We are looking at big names and all the number one (mobile) operators in Europe. We are talking to each one and we are in various stages and hoping to close deals.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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