And so it’s finally here. A journey that was 18 months in the making. Yesterday, Yes launched its first ever smartphone, the Eclipse and also revealed an all-new, redesigned Yes Huddle XS. Yes calls the Eclipse “the world’s smartest phone”, and for good reasons. Read on.
It’s the network, stupid
Yes is NOT a telco. Yes, you heard it right. They are in fact, an internet company offering a full IP-based, fully converged data network with voice. And boy, have they been moving fast. 16 months ago, Yes launched with an impressive 1,100 base stations, covering 50% of the nation’s most populous. Now the number stands at 2,200. At exactly the same time next year, Yes has committed to deploying nearly 5,000 base stations to cover Peninsula Malaysia and Sabah/Sarawak. Deployment in Sabah and Sarawak has gotten approval from the MCMC, and work is expected to start in the second half of this year.
Yes 4G’s data speeds on average has outperformed all other wireless telcos consistently, in fact between 5-10 times the speed of 3G. Globally in network performance tests by city, Yes 4G has managed download speeds of up to 19.88Mbps and uploads of 4.52Mbps, beating other international telcos like T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon Wireless in the US. That’s quite a feat for a company barely 2 years old.
Over the 16 months, Yes 4G subscribers have downloaded over 2 Petabytes of data, exchanged over 4 million SMSes and chatted for over 12.5 million minutes. How much is 2 Petabytes? (is that even a word?) That’s equivalent to watching full 1080p HD videos for 24 hours a day. For 99 years.
Eclipse. The Yes 4G Ecosystem is complete.
Why build the best, fastest network without having devices to support it? With the spanking new Eclipse smartphone, Yes 4G can boast the most complete repertoire of devices. Fixed internet with the Yes Zoom, on-the-go internet with the Yes Go and Yes Huddle and now, the Yes Eclipse, representing mobile internet.
The Eclipse journey is an interesting one. For one, it took a long time. I first previewed and ‘leaked’ it last year. It was then a working prototype. My first question then to CEO Wing K Lee was, “When is it coming?” His answer then was pretty straightforward – “When we’re ready.”
Eclipse. The Journey.
Yes 4G could have done it the easy way. License an off-the-shelf Samsung or HTC, plonk in a 4G radio, re-badge the facade and packaging, and re-sell it as a Yes 4G product. That would have been a piece of cake. But wait. What about performance? What about battery life? You need to only look as far as the HTC EVO 4G to see how bad battery performance can be running several radios within a compact form factor. Several hours of battery life, seriously?
Here’s what Yes 4G decided to do. Build a phone from ground up. As challenging and crazy as that sounds given the time, effort and investment that would involve. Yes 4G commissioned the likes of Foxconn, world-class makers of such top-of-the-line smart devices like the iPhone and iPad; Qualcomm, by far the biggest mobile/embedded chipmakers in the world; and GCT, leading supplier of Mobile WiMAX solutions in the world.
Yes 4G took a flavor of Android, then when the project started, the latest Android release was 2.2 Froyo, gutted its core – system, telephony, power management; modified and optimized it to what it is now in the Eclipse. The objectives were clear – a smarter than smart, smartphone supporting 4G converged services of data and voice, legacy worldwide 2G/3G support, 4-way video (6-way for audio) conferencing, customized Yes Life services and apps, and the wealth of apps from Google Play Store. And it needed to last a full day of use.
The Eclipse achieved all that, with the backing of Google. The smartphone is Google certified, runs the Google Play Store and has full access to the plethora of 450,000 Android apps out there.
Now that you’ve got a primer, here are some quick details and impressions of the Eclipse. As you may have known, I had the privilege of meeting YTL Comms CEO Wing K Lee in an exclusive, intimate closed session at Yes 4G’s NOC (Network Operations Centre) in Sentul last Saturday, together with a few other influencers – the charismatic Jason Goh aka @smashpop, tech baldie @Bennimaru, the camera-shy Aman Firdaus aka @amanz and his famous boss, Ikhwan Nazri aka @tekong. The NOC is a 300-acre site, which includes a 400-strong server farm of Sun, IBM and DELL boxes. An additional 400 units will be deployed in a months time.
At the impressive premises, Wing shared the latest updates of the Yes journey and some insight on their new baby, the Eclipse.
I’ve been using the Eclipse since last week and been impressed with the build quality, first and foremost. Built by Foxconn, I frankly expect nothing less. The high grade resin exterior and 4.2″ glass display (not Corning Gorilla Glass, though) is well put together and feels nicely solid. In fact, the build quality could shame other phones of similar price points and specs.
It is neither the thinnest nor lightest of smartphones out there but it fits both the hand and the pocket snugly.
At the front top right is a 0.3MP camera for video calls and the three familiar Android resistive touch action buttons at the bottom. On the right are volume buttons and a physical camera button. At the top is the power button. Over on the underside, you get a microUSB port and a 3.5mm audio input jack.
Hello, I’m Eclipse
Powering up the Eclipse for the first time, you’ll be greeted by an Eclipse welcome screen, followed by Yes 4G branding.
No one can accuse Yes for slacking here, notwithstanding a full UI skin atop Android, with customized Yes apps and services, menus and bundled apps. After logging in with your Yes ID and password, you’ll enjoy a seamless 3G/4G experience. It’s important to know that Yes 4G is a SIM-less service. Everything is powered by the innovative Yes ID. However, since it is a hybrid device, a SIM slot is included for you to slot in your 2G/3G SIM card. You effectively have all your bases covered here. And two numbers. In one phone.
You can run both networks at the same time, or turn either one off, if you want. Turning each off is as easy as just flipping a switch.
The Eclipse is smart enough to know if one network is not available and it will prompt you when you try to call or SMS.
We got to test 4-way video calling for the very first time. It worked flawlessly over the Yes network. What’s great about the UI of the video call is that it would indicate who was currently talking so there is not confusion in a multi-party chat. Now that’s smart.
Fire up YouTube and you’ll be enjoying HD videos on the go with minimal wait. Thanks to the 4G network, video streaming doesn’t even break a sweat, seriously.
Some apps bundled include social networking tools like Twidroyd, Wootfood (locally developed, owned by TJ of Ninja Joe fame) and Barcode scanner. CEO Wing had mentioned that they support local developers and would feature quality locally produced apps whenever possible.
What’s also cool is that it can act as a 4G WiFi hotspot. Just turn it on and share your high speed connection with 4 other users. Nice.
Batt out of hell
In terms of battery life, which is a major selling proposition for the Eclipse, I’ve been able to get 10-12 hours of battery life from some solid use. I’m known to not only be a petrol-guzzler but also a battery sapper. No thanks to my constant social networking, photo taking and email communications, batteries literally die on me each day. The 1,500mAh battery supplied isn’t the biggest out there, but thanks to ground-up power management optimizations in the Eclipse, battery life is pretty close to the claimed 19 hour standby and 7-hour talk time.
The journey’s just begun
With the Eclipse, I feel the journey for Yes 4G, its services and devices, has only just begun. The Eclipse is a solid first effort, and I expect it and future iterations to be even better. This isn’t a full-blown review, so look out for a more exhaustive review. In the meantime, enjoy the unboxing pics and the intro video below.
The Eclipse is available at all Yes stores and Yes retail partner outlets and is priced from as low as RM390 with the Eclipse 138 plan, and comes free with the 24-month Eclipse 238 plan.
For more on the Eclipse, visit http://www.yes.my
So, what do you think of the Eclipse?