INQ Chat 3G: A social phone for the mobile generation

17 Mar

The Indian cellphone market is flooded with close to a hundred handset ‘brands’ and this week witnessed the launch of yet another brand – INQ Mobile (pronounced as ‘ink’) of the UK. Our first brush with the Hutchison Whampoa subsidiary was last year when we reviewed their first phone – the INQ 1 – that also won the best handset award at Mobile World Congress that year. INQ Mobile has now tied up with Aircel to launch its first phones in India – the Mini 3G and Chat 3G. Today, we take a look at the Chat 3G, which hits shelves across the country tomorrow with a price tag of Rs 7,599.

The folks at INQ Mobile were kind enough to share with us the Chat 3G a month before its official launch in India, which also meant that we got the UK version rather than the Indian version that has a few extra bells and whistles that we will mention later in the review. First let’s get acquainted with the truly social mobile phone – the Chat 3G.

At a quick glance, one can mistake the Chat 3G for a funky BlackBerry, thanks to its spacious QWERTY keyboard surrounded by a metallic bezel. The absence of a trackball (or a trackpad, if you may) and the red rimmed circular direction pad give it away. The back is made of a glossy plastic panel that also houses the 3.2 MP camera. Users can choose between four bright shades of pink, red, green and purple for the back panel. The left edge has the mini USB port and the volume rocker keys while the right edge houses the unique switcher key that enables users to switch between applications. Yeah, this baby can multitask!

But what’s really special about the Chat 3G and all INQ Mobile phones is its user interface.  The phone runs on the BREW platform with a customised graphical user interface that screams innovation. The homescreen reminds us of BlackBerry again as there is a quick launcher carousel (a row of shortcuts) that provides quick access to frequently used apps and services. One can even have a couple of widgets like Google Search, Facebook or Twitter on the top of this carousel.

Delving deeper into the interface, once we signed in to our Facebook account, it asked us whether we’d like to add our Facebook friends to our phonebook. On selecting yes, we could merge our phonebook contacts with our Facebook friends and whenever they called, their Facebook profile picture reflected on the display. Magic!

If that isn’t good enough, then how about this: one can receive all Facebook friend requests, scribbles on one’s ‘Wall’, Pokes and Direct Messages on Twitter directly in the inbox, along with text messages and e-mails! Yeah, one no longer has to go to individual sites time and again to check for updates, everything is pushed to your inbox.  Then one can even publish photos clicked from the phone directly on both Facebook and Twitter. The Indian version also supports Orkut, though we have not tested that yet.

And it is this deep integration that differentiates the Chat 3G with other cheaper posers that claim that they were made for social networking. After using the Chat 3G, we realised that social networking is much more than giving a shortcut button for Facebook or creating a widget for it.

Apart from its social networking skills, the Chat 3G doesn’t disappoint on other aspects either. It offers free push Gmail and we were able to set up our account in a matter of seconds – all we had to do was enter our username and password, the phone did the rest. One can also automatically configure Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail and AOL e-mail accounts or one’s corporate e-mail account in case the settings are available.

The INQ Hub provides updates to the pre-installed widgets and even enables users to download Java apps from GetJar. Of course, the first app we downloaded was Opera Mini as the default browser was a bit ordinary for our taste. The Indian version of the phone comes with Google Maps and a Cricinfo widget pre-installed.

The 3.2 MP camera isn’t really worth writing home about and gives decent results suitable for uploading on Facebook provided they have been shot in ample day light. The absence of flash ensured that clicking pics in a night club was futile exercise.

On the phone front, we found the in call voice quality to be satisfactory and got almost two days of battery juice with Facebook and Twitter running in the background and about an hour of calls. Heavy Facebook users can expect about a day-and-a-half worth of battery life. The QWERTY keyboard is among the best that we have come across with a dedicated button for ‘.com’, though the red highlights are a bit difficult to spot at night.

Priced at Rs 7,599, we think that the INQ Chat 3G is a cut above the rest when it comes to online social networking. If Facebook, Orkut and Twitter are the words that you live by, there is no better phone out there in the market. Top it with Aircel’s Pocket Internet plan that costs Rs 98 a month for unlimited Internet browsing (with a fair use cap of 2 GB) and we think we have a winner out here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: