3 UK has launched their new INQ1 earlier this week and I have been using this handset for the past few days. I really like it. It’s the first feature phone (i.e. inexpensive, sub £100) that gets the mobile internet right. With £15/month or £80 on pay-as-you-go, it’s a non-brainer for any consumer looking for an affordable “internet-enabled” phone (the iPhone 3G would put you £349 down in the UK).
Facebook, Windows Live Messenger and Skype are integrated into the Contacts menu and refresh in the background. If the same contact is on more than one service, say in your phone’s contacts, on Facebook and on Messenger, they can be merged into a single contact. The Facebook app syncs and works in offline which means users can poke, send messages and read wall posts even when they have no coverage, i.e. in the Underground. The 3UK network is fairly good in London and when network coverage is adequate, all services work well on my device.
The internet browser is ok. It’s not as good as the iPhone’s, Symbian S60’s or Windows Mobile’s browsers but it is on par with browsers of other feature phones like Sony Ericsson k810i’s. INQ did not try to create an iPhone killer and considering this is a BREW-based £80 handset (on pay-as-you-go) , I didn’t expect an amazing browsing experience either.
I have tried the built-in push Email on the INQ and setting up Windows Live Hotmail was smooth and easy. Great news for consumers who have never tried mobile email because of usability issues. It still amazes me how the incumbent mobile opertors and phone manufacturers keep messing around with consumer mobile email and can’t get the basics right. The INQ does get it right.
Surprisingly, the INQ1 doesn’t came with games. That’s something the team should fix in v2. The target audience would appreciate at least the regular combination of Solitaire-BlackJack-Backgammon. I find that mobile games are an easy win for handsets manufacturers and I am always surprised at how little emphasis is given to including some one or two really good games.
The INQ1’s look and feel is great. It looks like a familiar 12-keypad Nokia but sports a nice metal cover and a fantastic keypad which makes sending instant messages and pokes extremely easy. The 3 megapixel camera is good, too. Unlike the iPhone, the INQ does not have any eye-candy in the navigation but that’s exactly what makes it so simple to use.
With regards to battery life and overall stability, the INQ1 is ok. I had to recharge my battery at the end of the day, like I do with other smartphones. That might be a bit upsetting for consumers who are used to charge their mobiles every other day. However, given the data usage it is fairly reasonable. When it comes to software stability, I could feel that the phone takes the hardware to its limits. Getting Messenger or Skype to restart takes a second or two and even the Contacts menu does not open right away. This is a familiar experience for any BlackBerry, S60, Windows Mobile and even iPhone users. It might be too slow to non-smartphone users who will upgarde to the INQ. Nonetheless, I assume that manufacturing a quicker handset would mean more expensive bill-of-materials and I think INQ did strike the rigth balance between price and speed.
Overall, the INQ brings great news for anyone who is keen about getting internet to work on mobiles. It’s a first step of a small operator (3UK has only 4.5m subscribers out of 60m) but with the right marketing and product roadmap it could do amazingly well in 2009.