Emblaze Mobile's First Else may be no more, but its legacy lives on. During MWC we caught up with the company's ex-CEO, Amir Kupervas, who started a company called UIU in June 2011 -- only a month after his departure and almost a year after the tantalizing First Else got canned. Over at UIU, Kupervas and UX strategist Itay Levin (who also took part in the First Else project) have a more humble ambition: to offer an Android launcher and an accompanying cloud management platform that are simple enough for non-techie users. "In the US, smartphones generate twice as much the amount of calls to the customer centers than the featurephones," said Kupervas. "There's a lot of hustle and a lot of confusion on how to work these guys. People are struggling with them, even existing users."
UIU may not be the most exciting product for us hardcore geeks, but it's a surprisingly fresh attempt to tackle the beginners' market. On the Android phone, UIU is essentially a set of horizontal-scrolling "slides" to replace the home screens, and you get "Home," "Notice board," "Applications" (with optional Bluetooth and WiFi toggles), "Favorite people," "Photo wallet," "Internet" (bookmarks) and "UIU settings." Each slide is presented with large shortcuts or buttons in a two-by-six grid, except for the two-by-two "Photo wallet" slide and the "Notice board" slide -- a clean substitute for the usual pull-down notification drawer to show text messages, though the drawer is still accessible. A bit like HTC's Sense UI, UIU will have helpful tips dotted around its interface.
UIU also comes with a simple gallery and camera app, and the former part is where it gets interesting: it backs up content to UIU's cloud platform that can be accessed through a desktop browser, where you can browse and add photos. But that's not it, because you can also edit and rearrange the slides from the desktop: we saw Kupervas adding himself as a "favorite contact" slide on his Galaxy S II, and almost instantly we saw the new slide pop up on the desktop browser as well. Should the device fail or go missing, you can simply restore the photos, settings and slide layout from your cloud profile.
Unsurprisingly, UIU's cloud console provides location tracking as well as status monitoring (especially battery life), just in case you need to keep an eye on your loved one. You can even remotely disable the phone's silent mode if you're simply looking for your lost device.
Kupervas told us that UIU will initially be focusing on European countries and the US where smartphone penetration is already very high and starting to slow down. "Now the operators are looking to expand: 'How do we bring additional users to the smartphone world?' In these markets we can bring added value to the entire ecosystem. We can bring our product to generate an additional penetration rate for the smartphone market."
The CEO went on to confirm that his startup's already at the stage of integrating with operators -- one in the US and one in Israel -- and may see a launch in about two to three months. Beyond that, UIU may also benefit from some value-added services, depending on the operators' needs. For now, you can get a taste of the upcoming Android launcher in Kupervas' demo video above.