Better known as the Facebook phone, 3's latest addition to its roster – the INQ1 – has a unique agenda to offer seamless social networking to all.

The first handset from INQ has cherry-picked the best bits from smartphones like the iPhone and Blackberry Storm to answer the prayers of a new generation of mobile users more interested in updating their status than phoning home.

Casting an eye over the INQ1's feature set is like a who's who of Web 2.0, with Skype, Facebook, Windows Live IM and access to Last.fm all on offer.

Combine that with HSDPA data speeds – and the fact it's a snip at £80 on pay as you go – and this could be the social networking king perfectly equipped to ride the recession.

Substantial build

Built to withstand a knock or two, the INQ1 is not so much ugly as lacking in panache. Its brushed silver and plastic exterior is standard slider territory, with a basic array of a D-pad, two hot keys and call/end buttons being the only items to sully the front of the handset.

With such minimal controls, 3 would have done well to use less space and afford more room to the screen (it's a 2.2-incher), given the phone's online credentials. A built-in accelerometer allowing you to view web pages in landscape mode does help get round this problem – as does downloading the Opera Mini browser which makes better use of limited areas.

The absence of a full QWERTY keyboard is also a strange omission for such a communication-centric device. That said, the current keypad layout makes use of big, tactile buttons so tapping out missives is no real problem – especially for those fluent in T9.

Easy navigation

3 has built on the success of its Skypephone and lifted the user-friendly carousel menu navigation, providing a single switcher button to scroll through the icons on the home screen.

Importantly you can switch between apps without logging out, so you can go between IM chats or web browsing to making a phone call.

There's also the option to load up widgets – so popular on the iPhone – direct on your home screen, so you can check info like world times or feeds.

Heavenly social

The Skypephone may have brought 3 moderate acclaim, but for mainstream appeal a bigger hitter was needed – and no one hits a home run like Facebook. But rather than simply offering a dedicated Facebook app, 3 has taken the idea a step further and built the handset around the app rather than the other way round.

Logging in for the first time, you're invited to integrate your contacts in one central location with your phone, Skype and IM contacts. Receive a call and you'll see your caller's profile picture, with their various contact details amalgamated under one name.

It's one of the slickest Facebook apps we've seen, letting you see your profile wall and offering access to your photos, contacts and inbox. Even better, once you've logged in you'll automatically have updates pushed to your phone so you'll know immediately if someone emails you.

Mixed messages

Like contacts, messages are also amalgamated so any emails you receive via Facebook will be displayed along with your SMS messages and IM threads. There's also the opportunity to text via Skype, as well as the ability to make free Skype-to-Skype VoIP calls – an increasingly attractive prospect for a public tightening their belts.

As well as being a far more effective way of organising contacts, the INQ1 also has an ace up its sleeve as within the list it also lets you see who is online, so you can contact them by either Facebook, Windows IM or Skype.

Multimedia features

Tight integration with web apps may be the INQ1's raison d'etre, but it also obliges in providing the features expected of any self-respecting mobile phone. A 3.2-megapixel camera is provided so you can upload your party snaps, as they happen, to Facebook. Unfortunately, though, there's no flash so capturing details in darker locations is a problem.

The dedicated music player is basic, and you'll have to store tracks to a removable microSD card due to the lack of onboard memory. There is, however, a link to let you log in to a Last.fm account to add a touch of variety to your tunage. Quality is acceptable although not on a par with more music-oriented handsets. It's not helped by the lack of a 3.5mm jack or adaptor, meaning you'll have to make do with the supplied headset or utilise the Bluetooth A2DP support and invest in a wireless set.

One of the big boons to many of 3's handsets, including the INQ1, is their ability to double as a tethered modem. This means you can hook the phone up to your laptop PC or Mac on the move and make use of its HSDPA data connection to access the internet; just make sure you don't exceed your data allowance if you don't want to pay through the nose. It's also worth bearing in mind there's no support for Wi-Fi – though that's not really a big surprise at this price point .

Sound performance

Accessing the INQ1's various web apps is helped by HSDPA support, although in areas not covered by the faster data speeds loading pages can be susceptible to hanging. Sound quality on calls was good on the whole, and battery life was above average. However, avid Facebookers will find that constant 3G and HSDPA use will inevitably drain the battery much quicker.

For a first foray into the mobile phone market, INQ has excelled in producing a handset that offers such intuitive integration with existing online communities. Affordable, easy to use and a genuinely useful tool, the INQ1 is perfect for those who don't need the sophistication of a smartphone but still demand an element of syncing with their digital lives.

Admittedly the odd corner has been cut and the INQ1 won't win any style awards, but for £80 on pay as you go there is little room for criticism.

Network availability: 3

Looks: 3.5/5
Ease of use: 4/5
Features: 4/5
Call quality: 4.5/5
Value: 5/5