By March 23, 2010

INQ 3G Chat review

INQ 3G Chat review INQ have identified a gap in the market for a low-cost handset that focuses on core functionality without trying too hard to be a jack of all trades.  The INQ Chat 3G is the filler for that gap.

Accidentally dialling ‘999’ when a mobile phone is in your pocket is not what I had in mind when taking the Chat 3G for a spin but thankfully this little incident doesn’t detract from what has turned out to be an interesting addition to the world of social mobile.  More about that later though.

From the box through to the instruction cards and the phone itself, everything looks to be geared towards the youth market with it’s bright colours and comic/Manga imagery.  Whilst it’s never going to compete with touch screen smartphones in terms of sheer ability, underneath all the gloss is a capable device that comes pre-loaded with fully integrated social networking applications for the likes of Facebook, twitter, Skype and MSN Messenger.

My review unit came with a 3 PAYG SIM giving free Skype-to-Skype calls and Windows Live Messenger usage.

 

The 10 second review:

  • Device: INQ Chat 3G
  • Price: From free
  • Summary: Great value handset with its heart deep in social networking.
  • Best of: Integrated social networking applications, easy to use interface, low price.
  • Worst of: Keypad is fiddly to use with large (adult) hands, OS too demanding for the hardware.
  • Buy it now from: Three

 

What’s in the box?

  • The INQ Chat 3G handset
  • Battery
  • USB Sync/Charge cable
  • Wired USB headset
  • Mains Charger
  • ‘Manual’ on printed cards
  • Warranty card

 

Don’t forget that you can also check out Matt’s INQ Chat 3G unboxing video to see more.

 

INQ Chat 3G specification:

  • 2G Network: GSM 900 / 1800 / 1900
  • 3G Network: HSDPA 2100
  • Dimensions: 114.5 x 61 x 12.8 mm
  • Weight: 122 g
  • Display: 320 x 240 pixels, 2.4″ Colour TFT
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Internal Memory: 100 MB
  • Card slot: microSD (TransFlash) up to 4GB
  • Bluetooth: v2.0 with A2DP
  • USB: miniUSB v2.0
  • Camera: 3.15 MP, 2048×1536 pixels, autofocus
  • SMS, MMS, Email, IM, Push GMail
  • Browser: WAP2.0 / xHTML
  • GPS
  • Java: MIDP 2.0
  • Facebook, Windows Live, Skype, Twitter applications and integration
  • MP3/WAV/eAAC+ player
  • MP4/H.263/H.264 player
  • Standard battery, Li-Ion 1150 mAh

 

 

 

General

INQ have certainly made the most of the compact box the Chat 3G comes in, with different removable layers containing quick-start cards, accessories and of course the phone itself.

With a QWERTY keypad and 2.4″ QVGA TFT screen, it follows similar styling cues to RIM’s Blackberry series (unintentionally or otherwise), the INQ Chat 3G is a nicely-sized unit with a reassuring weight.  In terms of aesthetics, the handset looks quite attractive (my 3 version having a metallic red rear cover) and is a fraction smaller than an iPhone making it very comfortable in a pocket.  One problem I found however was that the keys were too close together for adult hands and the only way to get any accuracy when typing was to use a fingernail – maybe this was a subconscious way of INQ saying that this phone “isn’t for grown ups”?  I would have preferred slightly smaller keys which would have then allowed for space between each.

INQ 3G Chat review-front

 

On the right hand side of the handset is a quirky little application switcher button – a single press of the button rotates a user-defined set of applications across the bottom of the screen, with a long press scrolling automatically.  I initially found it hard to break the habit of going back to the homescreen each time I wanted to switch applications but after more regular use the switcher became second nature.

INQ-right

On the left are volume controls and the micro-USB port for charging and data transfer; at the rear is a speaker grille and the camera lens.

INQ-right

 

The rear cover can be quickly removed, giving access to the battery, SIM and memory card slot.  With other handsets, exterior customisation is normally limited to a bulky 3rd party case but with the Chat 3G, replacement covers are available in a variety of designs – something I’m glad INQ are keeping alive!

 

INQ-back 

 

 

Review

Everything about the phone’s interface and applications appears to have been designed with a straight-edge ruler – there’s not a curve or rounded corner in sight not that it detracts from being able to use it though.  I found the Chat 3G to be extremely intuitive to use, something I was genuinely shocked at – expecting to find an ill-conceived interface common with budget handsets.

I mentioned briefly before that I accidentally dialled ‘999’ for the emergency services whilst the handset was in my pocket along with my wallet and keys.  Even with keylock on, the phone still allows calls to be made to 999 and 112 which is good from an emergency perspective but isn’t ideal when all manner of keys are being pressed.  I’ll just have to be more careful in future!

INQ-keypad

 

Menus and applications did feel a bit laggy after a while and I’ve managed to get the phone to crash and restart itself on a couple of occasions during testing – maybe I was trying to do too much but I don’t think using twitter, Facebook and Skype (all key features of the Chat 3G) should have taxed it too much.  I’m guessing the low cost of the phone is at the expense of memory/CPU which is a shame.  Keeping the potential overloading issues in mind and using applications individually, the phone works well with push notifications (e.g. twitter @replies and Facebook status updates) appearing on your home screen.

The interface for applications themselves suffer from the same basic styling, but all the functionality is still there albeit without the slick feel of other handsets.  Another bonus is that the applications are just that – applications, and not just links to online mobile versions.

Connecting to the web and online services is fast and pretty much seamless so whilst the lack of WiFi might seem like a bit of an own-goal when WiFi is even being built in to kettles and toasters, as long as you’re in range of a 3G signal you’ll be none the wiser.

This is the first time I’ve ever made Skype calls from a mobile handset over a 3G network and I’m happy to say it was a good experience.  Call quality was great and the Chat 3G integrates your Skype contacts with your SIM contacts to make calling over Skype effortless.

The inbuilt web browser works well for a device without a touch screen interface, but scrolling quickly is a little jerky.  A picture-in-picture display gives enough of an overview to help remedy this though.

Compared to pricier mobile phones, INQ have made sure the 3.2MP camera on Chat 3G is up to scratch.  Taking photos is easy with the large central button – the time from pressing the button, to the camera focusing, taking the shot and then processing the image is very fast.  Image quality is also very good, with a closeup of my PC’s trackball as an example.  Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157623428592847/

It’s a shame that there is no inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack, nor a proprietary headphone socket as the Chat 3G would make for a reasonable portable audio player.  The Music application is easy to use, but I can’t help feel INQ is partially responsible for the scourge of kids on buses playing their music aloud for the benefit of all other passengers.  Thanks but no thanks INQ.

Battery life has been very good using a mixture of Skype calls, twitter, Facebook, camera and just generally mucking around with the settings with a full charge lasting a couple of days.  Even leaving the phone on over a weekend didn’t fully deplete the battery and it was still receiving notifications all that time.

Instead of bundling the Chat 3G with a software disc, drivers and the PC Suite software can all be found by connecting via USB (in the case of PC Suite, a link takes you to the relevant download page on the INQ website).  PC Suite works well enough for transferring media to the phone, along with synchronising contacts, messages, etc.  However I did find that the software would error each time I tried to copy across a file with parenthesis – “(” and “)” in the filename.

INQ-angled-left

 

Conclusion

If you are looking for an inexpensive phone for chatting to your friends on Facbook, Twitter, MSN or Skype then the INQ Chat 3G may well be worth considering.

If, however, you want a phone that can do a bit more on the internet and do more than just the odd bit of web browsing then there are devices out there that would suit you better.

And don’t for a minute be fooled in to thinking that just because it could pass as a BlackBerry in basic looks that it can do anything like the BB can. This handset certainly has a place but it’s not in the same space as BB, Windows Mobile or Android handsets.

 

Review by: Joff

[ Post Tags: INQ, INQ Chat 3G, unboxing video, tracyandmatt.co.uk ]

Posted in: Phones, Reviews
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About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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