INQ bounces back with the Cloud Touch

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After a barren 2010, INQ Mobile’s new mid-range smartphone is good enough to make its presence felt

INQ Mobile doesn’t have a long list of handsets to its name, nor has it had any network other than Three selling them. Despite being under the radar for many, the company has had a part to play in shaping the current smartphone market.

In 2010, INQ Mobile had no new handsets at all, making us wonder if it was the end of the company. Now we know it wasn’t: it has come back with the INQ Cloud Touch, its first ‘proper’ smartphone. By embracing the open Android platform, INQ can still do its own thing, while having access to the huge collection of apps Android has to offer. The Cloud Touch comes with Android 2.2.

The phone has clever tweaks to give you a more unusual user experience. There’s a decent-sized screen (3.5-inch), with a good resolution (320×480 pixels) and a 600MHz processor that keeps things ticking over nicely. It’s not a top-end phone, but nor is it at the low-end. If you’re expecting dual-core processors running at 1GHz and above, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Facebook integration
Facebook features heavily on the Cloud Touch, and Facebook and INQ have worked closely to keep the integration as seamless as possible. From the moment you switch on and go through the initial set-up process, you’re not only asked to log-in to your Google account, but also Facebook. Once done, you won’t be asked to do it again unless you log-out.

Whether using a mobile data connection or Wi-Fi, it doesn’t take long to start populating the phone with Facebook content, contacts and photos – as well as your Google contacts, appointments and email. The main home-screen panel then becomes your gateway to Facebook.

The news-feed widget, which sits on the main screen, presents your news-feed with large images or messages in quotes, to give them more impact. If there’s a new photo or video, you certainly won’t miss it. Scrolling is easy, thanks to the responsive capacitive display.

Above the news-feed are four individual buttons: People, Calendar, Notifications and Places. These are all pretty self-explanatory, but the People app is clever. It offers you a full-screen feed of your top five Facebook friends, and the phone will initially work out which people have the highest level of interaction with you. This can give you surprising results on which friends you engage with most. You can, of course, change them manually, if there’s a particular friend you want to follow.

In addition to the normal Android settings menu, there are additional set-up options for controlling the home screen dock (which scrolls left and right like earlier INQ handsets), the number of home screens to display or what gestures will do (such as swiping down to reveal the notification bar).

Keyboard
Swiping down for the notification bar is a standard Android feature, but on this phone you can also swipe up. By default, this brings up the ‘INQ keyboard’, a rebranded version of the SwiftKey onscreen keyboard app. It doesn’t just help predict the word you’re typing, but also offers the word you’ll most likely type next.

The keyboard, as well as the camera, can be activated even when the phone is locked, by sliding the appropriate icon to the top of the screen from the lock screen – an idea that will soon be featuring in the latest version of HTC’s Sense UI.

On the same screen you can also see how much time you have left to do things, such as 61 hours on standby, eight hours’ talktime or 20 hours’ music playing.

Full article in Mobile News issue 489 (May 23, 2011).

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