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Hands-On: INQ 'Facebook' Phones

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Feb 16, 2011, 6:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.K.-based INQ was showing off its third-generation of Facebook-focused phones in Barcelona this week. These are the first phones from INQ to use the Android platform. For Facebook lovers, they are worth a look. Here's why.

INQ has been making phones that are focused on providing a good Facebook experience for years. The first two generations of devices from INQ ran on Qualcomm's BREW platform. According to INQ, they decided that they had reached the limitations of what BREW could offer and 18 months ago made the decision to switch to Android. This week, INQ was showing off the first of its Android devices.

Then INQ Cloud Touch is a slab-style touch phone, and the INQ Cloud Q is a bar-style QWERTY phone. Both offer the same user experience, they're simply wrapped in slightly different shells.

 

INQ

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The INQ Cloud Touch resembles a traditional, mid-range Android device. It is small, smooth, with rounded edges and feels really good in the hand. INQ uses three capacitive controls below the display rather than the typical four. The buttons were a little flighty, but these are non-final hardware.

INQ has done some unique things with the hardware. For example, there is a button on the left side that, when pressed and held, opens up a status dashboard. Users can see their battery status, Wi-Fi status, memory status, and other high-level controls when this button is pushed. Let go, and the dashboard goes away and you're back to doing whatever you were doing before pressing the button. This info can be accessed no matter what app you're using, and doesn't interrupt what task you're working on.

Similarly, there is a dedicated media key on the right side of the device, which lets users call up to Spotify dashboard for controlling their media.

Other interesting innovations included in the user interface include system-wide integration with Facebook. Both INQ devices place shortcuts to a person's top 5 Facebook friends and lets people swipe between those 5 people's walls. The phones also deliver real-time Facebook updates, text messages, emails and other alerts directly to a widget on the home screen. This widget is easy to use to sort through recent communications.

One nice touch in both phones allows you to access the camera from the unlock screen. That will be helpful when in a hurry to take a shot.

INQ has really improved its software, and the jump from BREW to Android was a good move for the company. These phones may not be headed to the U.S. yet, but should they, they'd be a good choice for the highly social set.

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