Updated: read our full review of the 3 INQI.
TechRadar attended the launch of the INQ1 handset, and we weren't really sure what we were going to get. Leaked pics and specs hinted at a slider handset with the abilities of the Skypephone S2, except with Facebook as the main focus.
What we got pleasantly surprised us, especially for the price. It costs £80 on PAYG, or £15 a month for free on contract. We'd be tempted by the latter option, as using the Facebook, Skype chat and internet services on PAYG will eat £5 of your credit each month.
But the first thing that impressed us was the build quality, especially for the price. The brushed aluminium exterior felt smooth in the hand, and the handset felt light but still had a nice weighty presence.
The keys were also nice and large with a pleasant pressing action, something that has been missing from the likes of other slider handsets, with the N96 in particular having rather small keys that were a nightmare to press at times.
The front navigational keys, with the menu, call interaction and softkeys, were easy to find without looking and nice to press, so overall it's a big thumbs up for the tactility of the handset.
Frank Meehan, INQ CEO, also said that the company would be bringing out a QWERTY version of the handset in the next year, probably with more of an email-focussed application pack we assume.
The interface was simple, and a nice evolution from the likes of the Skypephone, with the widgets present and scrolling along the bottom, and the likes of Windows Messenger, Skype and Facebook logos winking away at the top, to highlight the fact they're constantly keeping you up to date with your online chums.
We liked the social-networking layering within the phone a lot. A Lot. Being able to go to a contact and see their Facebook status complete with updated picture, and the same for Windows Messenger and Skype, was a really nice touch, and helped show how the handset was mixing the PC-only world of these sites with a proper mobile experience.
The phone will automatically add these contacts to the handset once you log in for the first time, and then you can choose to merge them all under one name for easy use.
However, although the constant updating of the picture made sense, allowing you to have a 'dynamic' contact list means that when a phone call is received it will probably take a couple of seconds to work out what the new picture is... especially if it's of a 'hilarious' monkey.
The camera took some pleasing snaps given the 3.2MP camera, more than good enough for sharing online with pals. A lack of advanced photographic features might upset some people, but then again we'd have to say they would probably do better looking at models from the likes of Sony Ericsson with its Cybershot range.
Another neat touch was the ability to access the widget bar wherever you were in the phone by pressing a button on the side, so any time you wanted to hop back into eBay you could do so easily.
Well, not right out of the box, but INQ intends to make the eBay widget available from the beginning of next year, adding to the range of functions of the device.
A feature of 3's handsets we have often enjoyed is present once more, with the 'favourites' list allowing access to all those unloved sites on the phone that don't have their own widgets, so if you're one of those wondering why it's a Facebook-centric handset rather than MySpace, then you're wishes will come true here.
The internet browsing was fine, although a little simplistic and some of the heavier websites took a while to load. However, if you're after things like Google Search then that's available as a hovering window on the homescreen, as is things like weather and BBC News.
Overall, we were more than impressed with the quality of this sub-£100 handset, and given the new features it packs we say a big well done to INQ and hope that the company continues to bring out simple, targeted handsets to help boost the 'resistance' to the big, dominant do-it-all phones.