Samsung Unveils Mobile Phone With ‘Optical Joystick’

Samsung Electronics’ latest mobile phone sports a gaming element — a joystick. The company on Tuesday released the SCH-V960, which features a unique “optical joystick” to help users navigate the wireless device’s menu and user interface.

Unlike most cellular devices — which depend on the use of a scroll bar on the side of the phone or a series of clickable buttons to navigate the on-screen menus — Samsung’s joystick is reminiscent of a PC mouse.

Like an iPod

Unlike most cellular devices — which depend on the use of a scroll bar on the side of the phone or clicking a series of buttons to navigate the on-screen menus — Samsung’s joystick is reminiscent of a PC mouse.

Users can operate the optical joystick by placing one finger on it and moving a cursor to navigate through the menu. At a high level, the process is similar to navigating an iPod, though it uses different technology.

Optical sensors read and react to finger movements, breaking down the traditional four-way menu navigation.

Users can point the cursor and click directly on icons in order to gain direct access to frequently used menus, such as the photo album, messaging and music functions. They can also use the optical joystick to scroll through play lists while listening to music.

Like a BlackBerry

With this joystick, Samsung can claim a unique innovation in the cell phone market, according to M:Metrics Senior Analyst John Jackson.

The concept echoes the trackball functionality of the new Pearl smartphone from BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, he said.

“Samsung’s optical joystick is certainly innovative. It’s a good example of progress toward solving some of the usability conundrums that have always characterized handsets. Navigation and user interface advances are something that will continue to be a key area of focus and investment and innovation,” Jackson added.

Although Samsung called its optical joystick “revolutionary,” Jackson won’t go that far. However, he did say that consumers will appreciate the innovation.

As advanced mobile applications become easier to use, and as their menus become easier to navigate, consumers will be more drawn to value-added services. “That means more money going through the wireless channel,” Jackson said.

Smart Lighting

The V960’s illumination sensor enables “smart lighting” — a feature that automatically controls the brightness of the LCD screen and keypad, designed to protect users from eyestrain and minimize the device’s power consumption.

In addition, the V960 supports a 2 megapixel camera, as well asglobal positioning system and Bluetooth functionality. The device will be launched in the Korean market at the end of December.

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