Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:53:56 PM
The INQ1 cleverly integrates social networking services like Facebook.
The YouTube service is slick but the screen is a little small to watch too many videos in one sitting.
Social networking phones are big news at the moment. So much so that four of the major operators each has a UK exclusive handset with a web-based super service at its core.
O2 has the iPhone, T-Mobile has the Google G1, Vodafone has the BlackBerry Storm and now 3 has the INQ1, otherwise known as the Facebook phone.
Fair play to 3, the operator has already enjoyed real success with its Skypephone range of handsets, which delivered the integrated Skype instant messaging service and a slick web browsing experience in a phone with a mass market price tag.
However, while Skype has millions of users, it doesn’t quite have the current cache or mass market appeal of Facebook, which is the star integrated service on the new INQ1.
It’s perfectly true that any web-enabled mobile phone is capable of accessing a user’s Facebook account, but the clever thing about the INQ1 is that Facebook has been cleverly integrated into the phone’s messaging function. On top of that, you also get Skype calling, Windows Live Messenger and high-speed internet access over HSDPA. And, the great thing is, you can pick it up for around £80 on prepay or free on a £15-per-month contract.
The INQ1 phone has been manufactured exclusively for 3 by a new handset company called INQ, a subsidiary of Hutchison, which also happens to own the 3 network.
INQ has set out its stall to provide services to prepay phone users that you’d usually only expect to find on your computer. And if every handset is as rounded and rich with applications as the INQ1, they could be onto something big.
The device is a fairly regular looking compact slider phone. It’s similar in design to the popular Nokia 6500 Slide but a touch smaller, and it’s very nicely put together.
The phone has a brushed stainless steel finish on the front and back, which means it’s cool to the touch and feels very robust. It also features a smooth slider mechanism and a nicely proportioned keypad, which activates the screen when slid open.
As for the screen, it’s a standard size for a compact slider, but the INQ1’s user interface is so neatly designed that you don’t seem to notice the screen’s relatively meagre dimensions.
Before we talk about the user interface, it’s worth mentioning the INQ1’s instruction guide, because rather than a dull text-heavy manual, instead you get a series of colour coded playing card-sized instruction guides with headings such as Know your INQ1, Facebook, Skype, eBay, Contacts, Widgets and Switcher. This is bound to appeal to the phone’s target market of youthful users with a low attention span and a high boredom threshold. The info cards are a good idea and give you all the information you need to get your phone started with the minimum of fuss.
In home screen mode, the INQ 1 features a conveyor belt of icon-based applications that reside permanently on the bottom of the phone’s screen. You can scroll left or right to land on an application and simply click the navigation key to choose one. Scroll once to the right and you’ll find the Facebook icon, which takes you through to the log-in page with a single click. Once you’re logged on, you’ll see all of the latest status updates added by your Facebook friends and you can choose four simple icons at the top, which let you easily browse your Facebook profile, inbox, friends and photos. Facebook works as well on the INQ1 as it does on the iPhone or the Storm, but its trump card is the fact that it ties Facebook contacts as well as your other chat and messaging contacts into all parts of the phone.
So, alongside your latest text message you may find a new Facebook message or a new chat message from Windows Live Messenger or Skype.
As well as the popular social networking services like Skype and Windows Messenger, which are all accessible via an icon on the INQ1’s homepage, you’ll also find a Google shortcut, which gives you access to Google Search, Google Mail or Google Maps. The phone is HSDPA enabled, with data download speeds of 3.6 Mbps so it’s a great device for browsing the internet.
Indeed, the INQ1 provides pre-loaded access to a host of popular websites via the 3 Favourites icon. These include Last FM, Yahoo!, Bebo, YouTube, MySpace and the BBC.
As with everything else, YouTube is beautifully integrated into the INQ1 phone, so in many respects the experience is slick and user friendly. However, the screen is not huge, so YouTube videos don’t render as well here as they do on devices like the Storm and the iPhone, but the phone does give you the option of viewing videos in landscape or portrait, and you can view the video in a small screen or full screen mode.
Obviously, there are better handsets out there for the more video-intensive services or for photo browsing for that matter, although the INQ1 does boast a perfectly good 3.2-megapixel camera. It also has a music player, an RSS feed reader, plus access to a large selection of downloadable applications, including Premier football scores and Pac Man.
If you’re looking to take full advantage of this phone’s data services, you will need a data bundle that will allow you to browse and download without guilt, so 3 has been shrewd in the way it has brought these services to the fore.
However, the INQ1 is a very clever device at an affordable price that cleverly integrates the world’s most popular social networking applications. If the Facebook phone isn’t a hit, mobile punters deserve a big poke.