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The First Else reinvents the wheel: Hands-on photos with the smart phone outsider

And now for something completely different. The first mobile from Else promises to solve all the smart phone questions the major players can't answer

Flora Graham
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The First Else is thinking so far outside the box, its name is totally made up of adjectives. Nouns themselves are too old-school for Else, an Israeli company that hopes to have its first phone on British and European shelves in the middle of 2010.

The phone, which is called the First Else, just to torture us, has started from scratch with a Linux-based user interface with some cool-sounding innovations. If a call interrupts an important game of Modern Warfare, for example, you can press a button to ask the caller to press '*' if the call is urgent, or '#' if it can wait till after the next checkpoint. Recording calls is encouraged -- there's a record button on the screen while you're in a call, you can listen to recordings as you browse through the call log, and the camera button works as a record button when the phone is lying face-down.

When it comes to hardware, this touchscreen smart phone makes more claims than a particularly deluded boxer. At today's launch, Else said the Linux-based phone is a camera as good as a Canon, a sat-nav as good as a TomTom, and a Spartan king as good as Leonidas from 300, or something -- it was dark, but we definitely saw Gerard Butler in his pants.

We can't yet say if the First Else is as good as the Scotsman in his skivvies until we have a proper hands-on with the phone, but click 'Continue' to be introduced to the First Else.

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The First Else is based on Linux, but the user interface is all new. The focus is on one-handed operation, and the round 'sPlay' menu allows you to drill down through applications and files using only your thumb.
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There's also a honeycomb-shaped options menu, accessed with a button along the side of the screen. The First has an 89mm (3.5-inch) capacitive touchscreen with wide 854x480 pixel resolution.
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The First Else has A-GPS, which it uses for sat-nav and geotagging photos with where they were taken. You can also set location-based reminders, as well as normal time alarms, so you can be alerted to pick up some loo roll as you pass by your local shop. You can also set up reminders to go off when you get a call from a particular contact.
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The camera has a 5-megapixel resolution. Else calls the megapixel arms race "a gimmick" because they don't necessarily give better photo quality -- and we agree.
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The music player shows up as a mini version in the corner of the screen when you're listening to music while doing something else while grooving to your tunes. The First will come in 16GB and 32GB versions, says Else, with no option to expand the memory with a memory card.
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An on-screen Qwerty keyboard offers spelling correction and haptic feedback, which makes the phone vibrate slightly when you touch a key.
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Else emphasised they would be producing every app from the ground up for the First, to prevent third-party apps messing up their carefully designed user interface. That means no Google Maps -- instead, there's an Else-styled sat-nav app. The square in the middle of the screen is Else's answer to one-fingered zooming -- grab it and swipe with a thumb to zoom in or out.

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