INQ Mobile stopped by PC World's offices last week to show off their new Chat 3G and Mini handsets. INQ Mobile is a relatively new mobile company based in the UK and previously only had one phone on their roster, the INQ 1. But this is a company to watch: INQ phones offer smartphone-like features at an inexpensive price point. And, according to Co-Founder Jeff Taylor, the new INQ phones will be available in the US in 2010.
So what makes these phones different from any other low-priced feature phone? Well, for one thing, they're quite nicely designed. I was impressed by their sturdy build and curved ergonomic shape. The Chat 3G's full QWERTY keyboard might be one of the best I've seen on a feature phone. The puffed, oblong keys were comfortable to use and I appreciated the large spacebar and handful of shortcut keys. I might change my mind, of course, after a longer period of use, but I appreciated the amount of thought that went into the keyboard's design.
The headlining features of these phones, however, are their integrated online applications. Both phones have one-click access to Facebook, Twitter, Skype, IM and e-mail clients that are continuously updated over the air. Conveniently, logging into these apps is only required once; they're always on.
Another cool feature is that the new devices can sync with DRM-free music on iTunes or Windows Media player. The software, powered by DoubleTwist, can sync photos and videos as well.
Both phones have a Netfront browser, which isn't as advanced on what you'd find on a smartphone, but still as good as any feature phone I've seen. You can also multitask via a hardware button on the phones' spines to open, close and switch through various apps. You can also sync your address book with Facebook--a trend we've seen on more advanced phones like the iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre.
The Chat 3G has a 2.4-inch screen, built-in GPS, 120MB of memory (expandable to 4GB) and a 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus. The Mini has a 2.2-inch display, 100MB of memory (expandable to 4GB) and a 2-megapixel camera.
The $US100 price point for the iPhone 3G from AT&T has set the bar for how inexpensive a smartphone can be. Lately there's been an influx of feature phones with a few advanced capabilities that cost over $US100. Why shell out that much money when you can get something better for less? It is also refreshing to see INQ not go the touchscreen route. With the exception of a few, many of the feature touchscreen phones we've seen just aren't quite up to speed with the iPhone 3GS, G1 and HTC Windows Mobile phones in terms of usability and functionality. If INQ can find a US carrier to offer these phones for under $US100, I can see the company doing quite well here.