Bursting onto the mobile scene is a new face from London called INQ. Although this manufacturer of social mobile handsets is relatively unknown here, it has already made a name for itself in certain parts of the world. So much so that its INQ1 phone won 'Handset of the Year' at the last Mobile World Congress, beating more established players because of its low cost and integration with social networks.
Following the successful model is the INQ Mini 3G, with SingTel being the first in Asia to launch it.
The INQ Mini 3G weighs merely 90 grams and feels very light in our hands. It looks like a toy phone that you would find at Toys "R" Us, besides all the China-made toy cell phones. It may be colorful and sporty-looking, but it doesn't feel like it can withstand the rigors of daily use due to its cheap plastic material.
Using the keypad to send out text messages was unpleasant, as the keys were stiff, lending to unresponsive texting while scrolling through the various menus proved a tedious affair.
The user interface (UI) on the Mini 3G's 2.2-inch QVGA screen is very graphical, as it is based on a 3 by 3 grid format. It reminded us of old color phones like the uber old-school Sony Ericsson T68i. The INQ Mini 3G runs on a proprietary operating system instead of other established ones like Windows Mobile thus driving costs down.
Scrolling through the menus proved simple enough with each icon explaining its function. On the home screen of the INQ Mini 3G, you will find a 'carousel-style' menu with one-click access to popular social networking applications such as Facebook and Twitter. While Facebook Chat is missing from the line-up of Facebook features on the phone, everything else is pretty much present. The Mini 3G is also able to merge your contacts on the phone with Facebook so that when your friend calls, you'll see his Facebook profile picture.
This is no smartphone nor does it try to be one. What you get are basic features from 2007 like a 2-megapixel camera with no flash, so taking shots in Zouk and uploading them on Facebook is not recommended. Images taken outdoors came out badly with a lot of background light needed to make them look decent.
There is no Wi-Fi and in any case, SingTel probably wants you to use one of their 3G network plans to access all your connectivity needs. Also not on the list is a 3.5mm jack but there are proprietary earphones that come bundled with the set. Other features include USB 2.0 connectivity, Bluetooth 2.0 and expandable memory up to 8GB via a microSD card tucked under the battery cover.
While the INQ1 brought something new to the table a few months ago, the other major players have caught up to the game. Rival phones offer applications with similar features except that you have to access them every time you want to receive updates, which in my opinion, is better than the INQ's always-on mode. Who wants to be disturbed every time someone pokes you when you are in class or at work? Unless you have severe withdrawal symptoms from not accessing Facebook every 10 minutes, in which case the INQ Mini 3G would surely be the right medicine.
SingTel's stance is that they will reveal prices closer to the launch date, which is on September 19, but they have assured us that it will be competitively priced. What does that mean? Your guess is as good as ours. On a side note, if you are still keen on an INQ device, you will be glad to know that next year, they will have new devices running on Android OS, which makes them proper smartphones.