We've seen a handful of recent efforts to aggregate frequently-requested information on phones' home screens -- notably H.O.T. from Helio and Motorola's SCREEN3 -- and in theory, it's a great concept. After all, with the exception of the very top and bottom lines, the home screen is typically a barren wasteland; why not fill it up with things you want to know anyway, right? Alltel has launched its own volley this week in the battle to take back the void with Celltop, a configurable uiOne-based app that offers up a potpourri of glanceable data displayed in a two-up format. Out of the gate, the so-called "cells" include baseball, football, basketball, and rodeo (yes, rodeo), a call log, stock prices, news, weather, and text messages, though more are promised and Alltel appears to be actively courting developer types interested in taking a crack at it. The price -- free -- is hard to argue, and the carrier says all handsets will come with Celltop compatibility by late '07. Follow the break for some hands-on pictures and initial impressions with the first Celltop-equipped phone, Samsung's u520.


Overall, Celltop had a slick appearance that we thought looked great without interfering with the presentation of information (a pretty critical balance to strike to make this thing useful), and we're guessing it'll only get better as display resolutions climb north. The background color can be adjusted to pretty much any color of the rainbow and the visual effects change to match. At 1X speeds, the cells refreshed just quickly enough to keep our attention, so we imagine they blaze on EV-DO.


Though the rodeo cell is a little bit out in left field, the rest of the stock cells are eminently useful, and we're happy to hear that Alltel is throwing some support behind third-party development. Our only major complaint? Currently, Celltop can't be set to show automatically when the phone is opened -- instead, it has to be manually fired up either by hitting the soft button our choosing it from the main menu, at which point the user waits for the Alltel splash screen and some intro graphics. In this ADD-stricken society of ours, we think they've already lost half their target demographic by the time the cells actually start to load. Fix this one niggle though, Alltel, and you've got a winner on your hands.





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