3 INQ1 mobile phone - First Look review

Following on from the S2 Skypephone, 3 has teamed up for a third time to this time create a more social network friendly handset. But can it compete against the powerhouse smartphones with their internet access and downloadable apps? We got some hands on time with the new handset at the UK launch.

The small slider handset made by Amoi, is well built, solid and inoffensive. It measures 97 x 47.6 x 14.4 mm, weighs 110 grams and comes with a 3.2-megapixel camera. You'll get a HSDPA connection, 50MB of internal and 4GB of external memory and feature an accelerometer so you can automatically switch between portrait and landscape modes. You won't get GPS though.

Powered by a Qualcomm chipset you'll also get a 2.2-inch QVGA 262K colours screen a standard mobile phone keypad that doesn't do anything crazy, the company has confirmed a QWERTY keypad version will be available in 2009.

Although lacking a QWERTY keyboard (it's supposedly aimed at the T9 generation) all the usual buttons are present, there is a D-pad for menu control and a dedicated shutter button on the side. It's your pro-typical basic phone.

Where the focus has been placed is on the interface and what the software can do.

Like the Skype phone the main access to the different programs is via a carousel at the bottom of the home screen. Very much like the HTC interface, icons scroll across the screen from left to right (a touch screen interface would make this incredibly easy) with the central icon being your selection. Failing that there is also a standard grid menu interface with colourful logos giving you access to all you need.

But the interface, which is incredibly easy to use, isn't the main focus, it's the integration with applications like Facebook that will see this phone be a success with the social butterflies of this world.

Coming with Facebook, Skype, Windows Live Messenger and Last.fm built-in from the get-go, users can keep up to date with their Facebook status on the fly. Updates are automatically downloaded in the background for all the apps and you'll be able to compose content offline so when you come back online the information is automatically sent - ideal for the underground. To make it even easier there is a nifty cut and paste feature (Apple take note).

For Facebook, the application interface is very simple allowing you to manage your status, profile, photos and inbox, while Skype is the same as in the company's previous effort - the S2, in other words very good.

Furthermore INQ has integrated real-time friends’ online status and Facebook profile pictures into the "live contact book" so information is displayed against their contact details. It's simple but very clever.

Get past main social networking apps, the Brew OS will allow you to add more over time, according to the makers. The phone will also offer Yahoo Widgets allowing users to add further customisation to the phone like search and weather.

Verdict

For the social butterfly that isn't ready to lash out on a long contract and high monthly bills for the iPhone or the BlackBerry Storm, the INQ1 looks like a fantastic offering. It's like the netbook of the mobile phone world - a netphone if you will.

You get fast internet, Facebook, Skype and Live Messenger apps all running at the same time in the background on a handset that is affordable.

The INQ1 will be available free on a contract tariff from £15 per month offering unlimited free Facebook, Skype, Windows Live Messenger and web access, plus 75 minutes of calls to other networks, unlimited texts, unlimited email and unlimited free 3-to-3 calls. £20 will get you all of the above but with 200 minutes of calls to other networks. INQ1 will also be available on PAYG at £79.99 with internet packages available from £5 per month.

Are there any catches? Well we would have preferred a QWERTY keyboard to make all that typing a lot easier and the inclusion of Twitter for the true mobile social butterfly.

This is likely to do to the mobile phone world what Asus did for the laptop world, and certainly one to opt for if you are Facebook addicted.