We have made no secret of our love for the INQ1 or the approach of its creator INQ which has also brought us the excellent Skypephone and Skypephone S2. INQ is a company which prides software over hardware - a message we have preached for years and one which a great many (now suffering) major manufacturers still choose to ignore. So excuse us if we get a little giddy about this...
INQ has launched two new handsets: the 'Mini 3G' and 'Chat 3G' both of which will augment the INQ1, not replace it.
Since this is INQ let's deal with the software first not the hardware. Like the INQ1, the Mini 3G and Chat 3G will run a custom Brew operating system which allows for extensive multitasking with background applications and an always connected approach for social networking sites, browsing and email. As you might expect the duo have had a visual spit and polish but retain the same intuitive roller widget system, seamlessly integrate Facebook contacts (along with profile pictures and statuses) with your own handset entries and now incorporate Twitter - a much demanded addition. Native Skype and a multi-platform IM client are also present.
As for the handsets themselves, I've had some hands-on time and initial impressions are extremely favourable. INQ has clearly found its brand image now and the duo feel part of the same family with excellent build quality, bright screens and tasteful red highlights. The keyboard on the Chat 3G is also excellent - feeling rather similar to the iconic Nokia E71. Interestingly, INQ has gone old school with the backs as they are detachable and the company will offer additional covers. Thankfully, there aren't the usual tacky affair but have any array of single deep colour finishes which I can actually see catching on.
In terms of specs, the Mini 3G is obviously more of an incremental upgrade to the INQ1 but it feels far better in hand at 102.9 x 45.8 x 12.8mm and what must be little more than 75g. Battery life is good too at 285 hours standby, 160 minutes talk time considering its always on nature and there's good video and audio codec support (AMR, AAC, AAC+, E-AAC+, MIDI, MP3, WAV, MPEG4, H.263, H.264) along with an 8GB compatible microSDHC expansion slot. The snapper is fairly standard however at just 2MP.
As for the Chat 3G, this measures 114.5 x 61 x 12.8mm and weighs a mere 90g making it lighter than any full Qwerty BlackBerry. It offers the same microSDHC expansion option and array of codec support as the Mini 3G, but adds GPS with Google Maps and ups battery life to 400 hours of standby and 180 minutes of talk time. The camera is also upgraded to a 3.2MP autofocus shooter.
What signs are there of their budget roots? Well, there's no WiFi which will bother some more than others and screen resolutions are nothing to write home about (Mini 3G: 2.2in QVGA, Chat 3G: 2.4in QVGA). That said, launch partner 3 will provide free unlimited Skype calls and tethering (using the phone as a 3G dongle with a laptop) while bundled media sync software will work with iTunes (time to stop fighting Apple).
Pricing at this stage remains unknown for both while INQ has only committed to a Q4 time frame (though other networks will be signing up this time). From what I hear we can also expect pre-pay pricing that will make them serious bargains while choose even the lightest of monthly contracts and you should get either model for free.
So while INQ1 got everyone talking, the INQ Mini 3G and Chat 3G look set to take things to the next level. Impress INQ Mobile, impressive...