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INQ INQ1 review

Barry de la Rosa
20 Mar 2009
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Our Rating 
per month, 18-month contract

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Specifications

proprietary, 2.2in 320x240 display

Three (3) is a pioneer in the mobile phone market before, though neither video calling or Skype handsets have proved unqualified successes.

However, with its exclusive launch of the INQ1 the company may be on to a winner. Although it's quite a basic smartphone, the INQ1 packs a lot into it and comes with some unique and innovative features.

It's a much smaller and lighter phone than many we've reviewed recently. Its plain design and rounded edges aren't going to win any awards for looks. However, it uses brushed metal for part of the casing and the screen has a firm sliding mechanism, so the overall impression is of good build quality.

The controls are simple and the keys are raised just enough to be easily distinguishable from each other. A button on the side of the case brings up the main carousel menu, which allows you to both open, and switch between, the various applications. It's like the new taskbar in Windows 7, and it's an intuitive way to handle applications.

The carousel menu sits on the home page along with user-defined widgets, such as boxes for weather, search, RSS feeds or a clock. The background and graphics are very colourful, and on the relatively small 2.2in screen things can feel a bit cramped. Luckily, when using applications such as the web browser or YouTube, you can simply tilt the screen to view it in landscape mode.

It's the applications that are bundled with the INQ1 that make it unique. As well as a comprehensive Facebook program, there's Windows Live Messenger (WLM) and Skype. When you listen to music, the INQ1 can automatically connect to a Last.fm profile (see www.last.fm) and update your playlists there. You can access YouTube and watch videos in full screen.

The unique contacts database is useful. It can import your contacts from Outlook, Facebook, Skype and WLM. Once you've entered your details, you can then merge the contacts imported from each of them - so you don't end up with multiple entries for each person. It's a shame there's not more integration with other services, such as Google accounts, but for those who use two or more of the supported services on a regular basis, it's a powerful tool. With no support for office documents and no Exchange server support, the INQ1 isn't aimed at the business market. However, you can synchronise your Outlook mail via USB.

Also unique to the INQ1 is its slick PC modem support. Plug it into your PC via USB, and a screen pops up on your PC offering to connect to the internet via the phone and the 3G network. It makes mobile laptop connections pain-free, but be warned that using this feature isn't advisable on the basic £15 Texter tariff.

In fact, any high-bandwidth use of the phone, for example using YouTube, risks putting you over your 1GB per month fair usage data allowance. For this you will be charged a steep £2 per MB. Three's claim on its YouTube warning page that this equates to "2p per web page" is misleading. Connecting to the BBC's non-mobile version of its home page, for example, uses around half a megabyte of bandwidth alone.

The 1GB allowance is adequate for data-optimised applications such as Skype and Facebook, and for web pages optimised for mobile use. For any other applications, it's highly advisable to buy an internet add-on from 3, which costs at least £7.50 per month. We feel that 3 could do more to clarify its idea of unlimited internet, and reduce the chance of users building up huge fees on their monthly bills.

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