Launched at a design studio in Shoreditch East London, 3’s social networking mobile phone arrives on the scene. It’s packed to rafters with instant access to the likes of Facebook, Skype, instant messaging and all for a remarkably low, low cost.
Kevin Russell, the chief executive of 3 UK led the presentation and introduced more of a business focus and background surrounding 3. Which we’ll come back to in a later post as it’s still of interest we believe.
What you’ve all tuned in for is the low down on the INQ 1, and we’re not one to disappoint.
Frank Meehan, the CEO of the INQ division of Hutchinson handled the main crux of the phones presentation and it’s him to we really have to thank for the low down, the full enchilada – everything you needed to know but were too afraid to ask about the INQ 1.
Just for some background on the mobile, it’s been in development for the past two years. More or less since the first iteration of their Skypephone came out, this prompted the development of the phone.
For the canny of you out there, you’ll realise the INQ 1 does have a similar feature set to the Skypephone itself. It’s just doesn’t have the seamless integration of the applications that we’ll discuss later.
Where this phone stands out from the crowd is that everything you wish you could have on a cooked ROM from xda-developers, is all there from the start. It’s like a wish list of social networking applications, but all on one device and meshed together well.
They set out to design a handset that has all of the regular tools used on the desktop during the working day, but is easy to use as SMS is on mobile phone.
3 have worked out from an analysis of traffic on their network that 82% of their phones usage is from data services, such as email, Facebook, IM, VoIP or video sharing. So why not design phone to cater for those needs Ã¢â‚¬â€œ hence the INQ 1.
From the get go, everything on the handsets user interface is laid out for that single need and requirement.
At the heart of the phone is the Qualcomm 6260, where they’ve built the user interface around Brew the operating system accompanying the chipset. They’ve gone with this choice of OS for many reasons, none more so importantly than it is truly multitasking as compared to others around.
Now this is complete, we were told INQ could now upscale the platform to higher Qualcomm chips in the series or even lower ones. All of which hinted at the next phones in the series, which could range from budget model to higher end smartphones.
Porting other OSs wouldn’t have been as easy, but now it’s signed sealed and delivered.
If you’re familiar with the TouchFlo 3D UI from the HTC Touch Diamond and Pro, then you’ll instantly recognise similarities on how all the applications are laid out. The best way to describe it, is that all the apps used are listed in serial at the base of the screen. These you scroll through by sliding your thumb from left to right or right to left, as many so are still off-screen.
It’s this UI with all the social networking apps that will be the winner we believe, beside their thorough integration with each other.
One of the main beefs customers of 3 had was with their existing UI’s on the current phones is that they’re not really designed for social networking. Also, if they have downloaded the application relating to something akin to Facebook, it’s very hard to find later on. This time around, they got their act together in this OS and straight from the box too.
As you can already see the main UI interface is a mixture of Facebook, IM, email, RSS feeds and Skype to name but a few.
One of the key things about that handset and it’s UI, if not the key thing about this handset besides all the social networking applications all on offer, is that anything that can be done live can also be done off line.
This is from email, to instant messaging, along with everything on Facebook, in fact anything you can imagine can all be done this way.
As soon as there’s connectivity again, all the tasks performed whilst no net access was available then takes place Ã¢â‚¬â€œ just as if it was actually done at that time.
Think of these benefits on areas of low reception; on flights, trains, tubes, any place you have down time really you can still use all of the functions of Facebook, email, instant messaging. All taken from the last time the INQ 1 saw a live connection.
It’s as if there’s an Ã¢â‚¬ËœWork offline’ ability to the phone. Don’t think for one second that this could be used to save your data allowance for the month. As on a prepay contract it’s already unlimited, and all just for £15.
This also includes, as you’re no doubt aware by now Ã¢â‚¬â€œ unlimited access to Facebook, Skype, Windows Live Messenger, Email, Internet Browsing, SMSs, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and calls to other 3 customers.
If that doesn’t hail a darn good deal, then we have no idea what does.
The only issue we might have with the Off Line functionality is that it might throw off people’s time line for events, unless that’s taken into consideration with a time stamp and acted upon accordingly.
Where the integration of all the phones onboard social networking software is shown off is in its contact book, for our dollars worth. Here, additional properties are shown of the persons Facebook status (along with other facets of Facebook), RSS feeds to that user, IM status and messages, plus many other items.
We only hope this integration for contacts could be brought across to the likes of Outlook. In suggesting that, why not have a similar INQ 1 UI as a theme for Firefox. So instead of having many tabs and windows open then several IM applications all running at once Ã¢â‚¬â€œ just have one single tabular view.
There’s also a good array of Widgets onboard right now, with the likes of Weather and RSS feeds, with much more planned. More will be added in time and straight over the air, unbeknownst to the user as they’ll just appear and without any bother at all.
The on board internet browsing software is quite stunning, almost comparable to Opera in its usability with zoom in and zoom out functions, coupled with full integration of the onboard accelerometer.
Its media player is very versatile and easy to use, also Last.fm has been built in to it. This just shows off what they’ve taken from what customers already use elsewhere.
They’re calling this handset a social mobile and you can definitely see why. The only minor gripe we have at this stage is the handsets screen is a tad too small for comfort level on its 2.2-inch screen, for showing off all that its worth. There’s also no GPS onboard with this handset, but we were reassured of next INQ version will have it instead.
In terms of hardware, there’s nothing exemplary in this model. It comes with a 3.2MP camera, 50MB memory with a 1GB card supplied, 329hrs standby and 324mins talktime. In balance to the applications all onboard and how well they fit together, it’s a darn great little phone and all of course on their HSDPA network.
We can’t stress enough that this does appear to be a bit of a revolution in the way a phone has been delivered. It’s great to use very well laid out and simple to understand. We look forward to more INQs on the horizon. Hurrah!