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It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate in the mobile phone market. With most phones aiming to be another iPhone, it’s good to see that you can be a cheap mobile that can do the basics while dabbling with the mobile internet.

The INQ1, £’s new “Facebook” phone take up where its Skypephone left off. Whereas that mobile phone let you chat with you Skype pals for free, it was for the most part a humble mobile phone with basic features.

The new INQ1 may not be a touchscreen killer, nor might it have its own marketplace for developers to show off their programming prowess but where it does focus its fire, it does reasonably well.

Looks wise, it does not particularly stand out. It is a slider phone and well it slides out reasonably well. The menu buttons could be a bit more sleeker as they literally stand out while the four other buttons are flush with the case (actually they are part of the casing).

It has a brushed steel finish, front and back and feels robust in the hand. When slid open the keypad seems proportioned enough for even us fat-fingered phone users.

{mospagebreak}Gone is the large tome telling you how to operate your mobile phone in fourteen different languages. This has thankfully been ditched in favour of a colour-coded set of cue cards that help you get to grips with the most important features of the new phone. Namely Know yourINQ1, Facebook, Skype, eBay, Contacts, Widgets and Switcher.

Skype hasn’t been ditched from 3’s line up. It still has a very important role in this new phone. But it now shares the limelight with Facebook and Windows Live Messenger. There is also a Google shortcut withaccess to Maps, Search and Gmail.

The phone integrates all your communications into one inbox. Here you can access emails, texts, Facebook pokes and emails and Skype info, complete with Facebook photo.

The phone has built-in support for Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo web-based email accounts and can even work with Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino too.

The phone is HSPDA enabled and while you should get 3.6Mbps download speeds it can at times fell sluggish when updating Facebook and Gmail. The Facebook app should be quite quick but when the signal disappears this becomes annoying to use and frequently we decided that it would be quicker to update a profile when we got back to a computer.

Also, 3’s network in the UK seems to be a little weak where our office is meaning that some conversations and internet sessions had to be cut short when the signal went.

Again, when out of signal range, it can be annoying. When in signal range, it is a great phone. Also, it goes one step further than the iPhone by allowing itself to be turned into a mobile broadband dongle by attaching to a laptop computer.

{mospagebreak}The phone also features a 3.2-megapixel camera and the results from this are quite pleasing. YouTube is also integrated into the phone and the experience is quite good. But the screen is not as big as say the iPhone, Storm or Android G1 so videos, in our opinion, don’t look as good on this phone.

A modern phone wouldn’t be a phone without shoehorning a media player into it and it doesn’t disappoint with a player that can either be listened to via headphones orthe external speaker. There is also a MicroSD card slot with a 1GB card included. The player also integrates with music social networking website last.fm.

While a lot of the faults can be ascribed to a bad network experience, the INQ1 is generally a good phone and great to use as a social networking tool when out in the field.

Battery life is OK. In our tests, the battery lasted about a day or two, but this shortened went heavily used for internet access.

Rating: 8/10

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