While the goliaths of the mobile world were still setting up their Twitter and Facebook accounts, a little known manufacturer called INQ teamed up with 3 last year to release the first ever bona-fide ‘Facebook’ phone – the INQ1.
Not only did this unassuming slider seamlessly integrate a ‘FaceyB’ app into the phone’s interface, it came at a price even the kids on pocket money could afford; £60 on prepay or a cheap-as-chips monthly contract was an absolute steal.
Its follow-up, the INQ Mini, serves up more of the same Facebook fun but now adds the micro-blogging sensation Twitter to its app line-up. The bargain £60 price tag also stays. Social networkers on the hop, and on a budget, have never had it better.
Splash of colour
One criticism of the INQ1 slider was its workman like design. The Mini addresses the humdrum looks by adding a red coloured rear panel but otherwise it’s a trim, standard-issue but well-made candybar.
There’s also surprisingly little creak for a 60 quid prepay phone and the keypad is spacious and responsive enough for tapping out quick-witted Facebook and Twitter ripostes.
Apart from the handset design revamp, adding Twitter and funking up the wallpaper and menu interface, nothing major has changed on the Mini.
The homescreen Switcher shortcut bar still remains, letting you customise with apps and web bookmarks. Life jugglers will also appreciate the dedicated Switcher side key for one-handed operation.
Supplementing the Switcher is a handful of homescreen widgets like Google and Yahoo search, weather updates and world clock. The choice is nowhere as extensive as widget-loving handsets from Samsung or LG, but in the case of the Google and Yahoo widgets it gets you online immediately.
As with the INQ1, the Facebook app delivers near-desktop functionality and is great to use.
The Twitter app’s functionality is more streamlined, neatly displaying the Twitterers you’re following and letting you send Tweets and reply to messages. You can also easily hop online and follow embedded web links.
While access to Facebook and Twitter is the INQ Mini’s main draw, the real masterstroke is its integration of Facebook messages into the standard phone inbox and the merging of all your different contacts under one name.
Facebook messages, pokes and requests drop into the inbox, next to your text and MMS messages and Skype chats, for easy access. Merging all your Facebook, Skype and phonebook contacts is similarly straightforward but has to be done manually, which can be a tad laborious if your address book is bulging.
Free Skype calls
One big bonus of grabbing this handset on 3 is the network’s generous offer of free Skype-to-Skype calls over 3G. With no catch you can enjoy making calls in the UK worldwide to fellow Skypians for gratis. Call quality is always going to be inferior, but not enough to spoil the conversation.
Strangely, the original’s 3.2MP snapper has been downgraded to a fixed-focus 2MP affair.
It’s also bereft of any photo mods, but the smaller file size and onboard 3G speeds mean uploading pics onto Facebook via the camera interface is incredibly nippy. Picture quality may be suspect, but they’ll be online for all your Facebook friends to spy in seconds.
No other phone integrates Facebook so well at such a giveaway price. By adding Twitter, the INQ Mini is even more compelling for the social networker whose phone budget is tighter than Rod Stewart’s leopard-skin leggings.