The INQ Cloud Touch runs the Android 2.2 OS, with a layer of custom UI laid on top. This is the Facebook glaze that means the social networking-obsessed marketing that surrounds the phone isn’t just hot air.
The meat of the Facebook pie is made up of simple widgets, set to inhabit the default home screen as standard. There are four shortcuts to take you to the calendar, made up of Facebook and Google Calendar events, your Facebook notifications, your Facebook friends and Facebook Places. They’re formatted to look like official images from the network, adopting its graphical style and colour scheme.
Below this, the Cloud Touch drops a large widget displaying the last update from your Facebook feed. You can browse through older updates with buttons on the widget, but it’s intended for quick-fire updates spanning just a few seconds – for anything more you’re better off digging into the full Facebook app.
The Cloud Touch’s Facebook integration isn’t just about widget links you could largely replicate on any Android with a trip to the Android Market – it’s cleverer than that. The Chat, Friends and Messages functions have been split into separate apps. At first it seems like this clutters-up your main apps menu, but it’s worth it, cutting out a layer of navigation other Androids equipped with the official Facebook app have to contend with. It’s quicker to get to Facebook’s good bits here, and that means a lot in these heady days of smartphone obsession.
This phone doesn’t offer much in terms of unique functionality, but it does a good job of bringing existing Facebook functionality to the surface. Other custom user interfaces like Motorola’s Motoblur do this too, but here the apps you use, when browsing friends or chatting to them, are either Facebook’s own or designed to look as such.
Parts of this dissected array of Facebook elements aren’t perfect – you can’t click a link sent by a friend in Chat, for example – but the ease of use is impressive. Just login with your Google account, login with your Facebook details and you’re away. Those that don’t live their lives tied to the big F may find this annoying though, as your status is set to “ready to chat” as standard.
All of this social networking functionality can be ignored if you like too. You can delete all the widgets and shortcuts, as in its most bare-bones form the INQ Cloud Touch’s custom UI is free from social networking additions. Most of the home screen – and you can choose to have between one and seven – is free to customise as you want.
There’s a small, scrollable icon dock at the bottom of the screen you can’t ditch without installing a completely new third-party UI, but it’s flexible enough to be useful. You can drop any shortcut items into it, including contacts, web links, playlists and apps.
The Cloud Touch’s interface also packs-in gesture commands. Flicks up and down the screen, and a double tap, can be assigned to a handful of functions including opening the dialler or apps menu, or zooming out to see a summary of all your home screens. Unfortunately, INQ has also pumped the phone full of its own clip-art style icons for many of Android’s standard apps. Frankly, they’re ugly and spoil the look of the phone’s menus somewhat. Here’s a selection in their gaudy glory.
(centre)”’In a word – yuck!”’(/centre)
Although the phone only sports a 600MHz processor – not all that much faster in clock speed terms than the very first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1 – the optimisations of Android 2.2 make the Cloud Touch run speedily. Simple navigation through the interface isn’t quite as quick as a 1GHz Android, but you won’t find those at this price yet, and besides lag is minimal.