Gallery: The Helio Ocean's Hardware Design Secrets


Along with the external hardware you'll see in the shots below, the Helio's triple decker mechanism has a special triangle shaped spring that operates both the keypad and QWERTY. So interesting that MIT's Tech Review put the phone on its May/June cover, along with a well-written and romantic feature, Soul of a New Machine, penned by David Talbot.

...the dual-slide format brought on another problem: no one wanted a device that was too thick. A number pad and a QWERTY keyboard would normally require two sets of springs and hinges—one for each slider. This would tend to fatten the gadget. What's more, Helio wanted the sliders to be rugged and to have a firm "feel," like the luxu­rious thwunk of a BMW's door. "We need to avoid those indeterminate states, when it can slide halfway out, and it is neither fish nor fowl," Duarte says. The Ocean needed a very special kind of mechanism: a single spring that could not only control hinging action from two directions but impart that hum-to-yourself satisfaction to the keyboard-sliding experience.

More on their solution, the triangle spring, and the undocumented third orientation of the phone meant for gaming:

...Helio had hired Pantech of Seoul, South Korea, to build the phone, but it also hired a small engineering company, Teus of Suwon, South Korea, specifically to solve the hinge problem. Teus's people came up with something new in the realm of mobile communications: an ingenious triangle-shaped spring that governs the opening and closing of both of the Ocean's sliders. The triangle simply gets pushed on different sides, depending on which slider is being used. Using one of the sliders feels like pushing something over a little incline and then dropping it firmly down into a locked position. With the design of the spring, Helio was on its way to a device that worked well as both a phone and a messaging device—­without being too fat.

The feature also reveals something I had no idea about: When the phone is flipped 180 degrees from QWERTY mode, the navigation cross becomes a gaming D-pad. Ingeniously designed and ingeniously reported and written about by Talbot:

Connecting to one's friends was the organizing principle.
But while the hinge spring made the dual-slide concept feasible, the dual-slide concept brought on the d-pad problem. "D-pad" means direction pad: four arrow keys with a center button. For messaging and Web surfing, the d-pad should be to the right of the screen. This is because most people use their right thumb to navigate. But in gaming, the right thumb has a more important job: it must keep up a rapid staccato on a firing button. So for game consoles, the d-pad needs to be on the left. Another Korean engineer at Helios, gaming-product manager Leo Jun, insisted that if the Ocean was really going to be the best of everything, there could be no compromise on the d-pad. The device had to have a left-side pad for gaming—whether or not it also had a right-side pad for messaging. It was another "conflict of requirements."

Jun's solution: give the device not two orientations but three. The first orientation, of course, is vertical—for the phone. The second, with the QWERTY keyboard open, is horizontal; in this configuration, the d-pad is on the right, for scrolling through messages. The Ocean's software changes the orientation of the displayed material depending on which slider is pulled out. But Jun asked game manufacturers to give Helio versions of their software that essentially played upside down. Flip the device 180 degrees, keeping both sliders closed, and the game is now playing right-side up—with the d‑pad on the left. "That was a nice move on his part, so it doesn't undermine the gaming experience," says Duarte.

Here's a quote from Sky Dayton, which explain's Chen's Annoying habit of flipping the Helio phones we used at CTIA together over and over again:

"If you go talk to the CEO or COO of one of the major carriers, I doubt you will hear much about the color of icons, the feel of the soft-touch paint. I can wax poetic about the spring-loaded action [of the sliders] ." And he does: "We really thought about the movement and the sound it makes when it opens, the sound it makes when it closes. You see a mannerism when people open and close their Ocean. It's like humming to yourself."

Part I: Soul of a New Mobile Machine [MIT Tech Review]
Homepage [Helio]

Ocean Specifications Form Factor - Dual Slider - alphanumeric keypad + full QWERTY keyboard Color - Black Dimensions - 4.33" x 2.20" x .86" Weight - 5.61 oz Display - 2.4 inch QVGA display, 240 x 320, 260K colors 3G Speed - EV-DO network support for fast multimedia downloads Talk Time - Up to 5.1 hours Memory - 200MB internal memory expandable via microSD™ with USB Mass Storage Mode Camera - 2.0 Megapixel, digital zoom, built-in flash Video Camera - MPEG-4 video recording Audio - Stereo Bluetooth® wireless technology Personal Entertainment Center - Supports: MP3, AAC, WMA, MPEG-4, H.264, VOD, MOD Additional Features - POP/IMAP Email Support Supports Helio Music GPS-enabled services and applications Photo caller ID,

Ocean Comes With
Battery + Charger
Stereo Headset
USB Cable
2.5 to 3.5mm Headset Adapter

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Car Charger
Carrying Case
Bluetooth® Stereo headset
Bluetooth® headset

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