Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

HTC Hero – the Good, the Bad (and the Ugly?)

Monday, July 12th, 2010

After a good few weeks of using an Android phone for the majority of tasks I perform (except receiving calls), how have I found the phone? Thanks to 3MobileBuzz, I’ve had an HTC Hero on loan, and although not the newest of phones, it’s still interesting to see whether it can handle all my needs.  In fact, just before the phone I wrote down the 30 most important tasks I currently use my Symbian for just to remind me the sorts of applications and tasks I needed the phone to perform.

So, a small caveat; as the phone came preconfigured with a SIM, Google Account and Spotify Premium account, I haven’t used the phone with my Google Acount (ie Mail, Calendar etc.) and I haven’t used it for receiving calls (as none of my friends know this phone’s number). Finally, as a loan phone, I have limited myself to *free* Android apps.

The Good – In nearly every task I’ve thrown at it (including a few extra ones), it’s excelled, and the phone has worked well.  Applications have been available to help with the task at hand.  Spotify (in both online and offline mode) proved to be a useful application (although quite why, when you have a track in the local cache, it continues to consume online data I don’t know).  In the majority of tasks I wanted to perform, there was a free app to help out (something that’s not true of Symbian, although it’s close), and in many cases, the best app appeared to be the free app too.  Apps were available to integrate into the phone; although it’s against the T&Cs to export phone numbers from the Facebook site, the Facebook widget was at least able to offer to dial numbers direct for you.  The phone was not too heavy, and easy to use one-handed as well as with two (and not suffering from the way I held the phone 😉  Many options were configurable, or 3rd party tools are available to help achieve a little tweak here or there.

The Bad – Not every app though performed well; a few have crashed regularly, making it feel a little like when you beta test software; some of the apps that crashed had 1 or 2 updates during the time, yet still continued to crash.  Whether or not this is a result of the phone still being on Android v1.5 I don’t know, but this is at least being fixed (hopefully) this month.  Another thing missing (not that Symbian is any better, but the iPhone is) was that there was little consistency in the UI between the different programs from different authors, and little consistency between the widgets available too.  Also, although everyone berates Symbian for constantly asking you which connection you want to use, there were a few times when I actively wanted to use 3G over Wi-Fi (accessing 3UK‘s Planet 3 website or knowing that I was too far from the Wi-Fi for it to work reliably), and this level of control is not available.

So, overall, I enjoyed the phone, and the Capacitive screen made me realise what an impact this has on the whole UI, and whether even the newest phones from Nokia which continue with Resistive screens can be as much as a success (of course, the new Nokia N8 is Capacitive).  Having said I enjoyed it, the third party apps crashing regularly did put me off a little.

The ugly? It may have been this particular phone, but it struggled to hold a connection to my Wi-Fi.  Whenever it lost it (even when in the same room), it brought home that the 3G radio signal was equally awful (The HTC Hero seems to have a reputation for having a poor 3G antenna design especially in poor signal areas), meaning I was often left without net access at home (although in many other areas where the 3G was stronger it performed well).

Would I buy an Android phone? Yes, but more likely the HTC Desire (also available from 3UK), which offers a later OS version and is more powerful, but I would like to see some improvements in the overall experience.

Thanks again to 3MobileBuzz for the loan of the phone.


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Dell Streak available tomorrow from O2

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

This is a very interesting device, and one I had the fortune to get a sneak peek Hands On with last week.  This is a 5″ tablet phone, which I have to say is a little large to hold up to your ear when on a call, so you might want to budget for a Bluetooth Headset to not look quite so silly, or simply add this to your existing phone with a data only contract (more later).  However, it’s running Android, and features a very nice touchscreen, which can take the knocks of every day life (I saw the blunt end of a knife be punched into the screens of 2 devices and neither suffered any problems with the touchscreen still working fine straight afterwards).  Obviously Dell & O2 don’t condone this level of abuse, and do warn that there are still certain angles where a drop onto a hard floor will still cause serious damage, but at least it’s a little tougher than many, and features something called Gorilla Glass to provide that protection.

The device I saw had a range of additional Android applications installed onto them, so although I can’t comment on what comes as standard with the device, they seem to have full support of the Android Marketplace, and hence there is a whole raft of additional applications that can be installed.

Although I didn’t get long with the devices, they seemed to be coping with many demos without a major impact on battery life, although that obviously needs a longer trial to establish whether it can last more than the common single day of usage.

O2, however, are offering the phone on a whole host of tariff options, ranging from the 30-day rolling Simplicity contracts (the Dell Streak 32GB will cost £399 upfront on all Simplicity contracts) to the high end £60 per month “unlimited” everything 24-month contract (where the device will be free).

24 month smartphone tariffs

Included minutes Included data & Wi-Fi Included texts Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
100 Unlimited Unlimited £25 £149 £249
300 Unlimited Unlimited £30 £59 £149
600 Unlimited Unlimited £35 Free £89
900 Unlimited Unlimited £40 Free £59
1200 Unlimited Unlimited £45 Free Free
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £60 Free Free

18 month smartphone tariffs

Included minutes Included data & Wi-Fi Included texts Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
100 Unlimited Unlimited £30 £149 £249
300 Unlimited Unlimited £35 £59 £149
600 Unlimited Unlimited £40 Free £89
900 Unlimited Unlimited £45 Free £59
1200 Unlimited Unlimited £50 Free Free
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £65 Free Free

The Smartphone tariffs above offer unlimited texts, data and Wi-Fi at thousands of BT Openzone and The Cloud hotspots as well as a wide range of minutes.

12 month simplicity tariffs

Included minutes Included data & Wi-Fi Included texts Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
300 Unlimited Unlimited £15 £349 £399
600 Unlimited Unlimited £20 £349 £399
900 Unlimited Unlimited £25 £349 £399
1200 Unlimited Unlimited £30 £349 £399
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £45 £349 £399

30 day simplicity tariffs

Included minutes Included data & Wi-Fi Included texts Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
300 Unlimited Unlimited £20 £349 £399
600 Unlimited Unlimited £25 £349 £399
900 Unlimited Unlimited £30 £349 £399
1200 Unlimited Unlimited £35 £349 £399
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £50 £349 £399

Again, it’s nice to see Wi-Fi at hotspots included even on these tariffs.

However, maybe the biggest area of interest will be the Data Only options, where the device isn’t actually used as a phone at all, but instead, concentrates on it’s capabilities as an Internet Tablet…

Contract length Included data Included Wi-Fi Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
24 months 3GB 500MB £25 Free* £99
24 months 3GB Unlimited £30 Free £49
18 months 3GB Unlimited £15 £349 £399
18 months 1GB Unlimited £10 £349 £399
1 month 3GB Unlimited £15 £399 £449
1 month 1GB Unlimited £10 £449 £449

* The 16GB Dell Streak is free on a £25 a month 24 month tariff until 30 June 2010, after which it’ll cost £49.

Although there’s quite a jump from the £15 per month 18-month contract to the £30 per month 24-month contract, with the smaller outlay of the phone itself, it works out roughly the same cost (within £10) over 24 months on both.

The specs of the device (taken from Dell) include:

  • A sharp 5-inch capacitive multi-touch WVGA (800×480) display for a great full-screen experience watching video or browsing the web
  • Fast 1GHz Snapdragon ARM-based mobile processor from Qualcomm
  • 5 MP autofocus camera with dual LED flash that offers easy point & shoot capability and quick uploads to YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and more
  • VGA front-facing camera enables video chat functionality down the road
  • A user-removable (and replaceable) battery
  • A 3.5mm headphone jack means many of you can use the Dell Streak as the music source (and more) in your car
  • Integrated 3G + Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) + Bluetooth 2.1 (think headsets, external keyboards, stereo headsets, etc.)
  • UMTS / GPRS / EDGE class 12 GSM radio with link speeds of HSDPA 7.2 Mbps / HSUPA
  • A user-accessible Micro SD slot expandable up to 32GB. That means you can store  lots of movies, music, photos or other kinds of files.

On the software side, here’s what you can expect:

  • A customized multi-touch version of the Google Android operating system that features Dell user interface enhancements
  • Access to over 38,000  apps (and growing) via the Android Marketplace
  • Microsoft Exchange connectivity and integration through TouchDown
  • Google Voice support
  • Integrated Google Maps with voice-activated search, turn-by-turn navigation, street and satellite views
  • Quick access to activity streams via integrated social network app widgets like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

The only downside I can see to the device right now, is that I believe it ships with Android 1.6, although it’s likely that Android 2.1 or 2.2 will become available as an update, but not until later in the year (we’re hearing September).  The device as it stands, though, will be available tomorrow from O2 Stores and the O2 website.

I should point out as part of our “Not Unlimited” campaign, that I doubt that any of these “unlimited” references actually get you unlimited service, but O2 have not yet provided the detail behind what the actual unlimited limits are.


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If not SpinVox, then Pibbix

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

For a while now, I have been a big fan of SpinVox, who offer a voicemail to text conversion service and then SMS you the message.  This functionality allows me to not take calls when in meetings / busy, but still see very quickly the details of the message (and without the time and hassle factor of dialling into the voicemail).  In fact, with little things like not having to write down numbers (which are transcribed into the SMS and accessible directly from the phone), it’s very useful, and a service that once you’ve tried is often worth the small monthly outlay.

However, SpinVox is slowly cancelling all personal subscriptions, so for many people SpinVox is no longer an option open to them.  Well, in the UK, Pibbix have stepped into this market, and are now offering their service along similar lines.

Pibbix have 3 charging rates, which are:

  • £7.50 for 20 messages converted to text
  • £16 for 50 messages converted to text
  • £30 for 100 messages converted to text

These are good rates, and depending on how many voicemail messages you get a month will determine which tariff will suit you best; for many the lowest tariff will suffice.

There are nice little touches with Pibbix which is why I’m even keener to promote them; if the message goes beyond 1 SMS message, you aren’t charged more; the cost is per message converted, not per SMS sent to you.  You can choose whether to be notified by SMS and/or email, and the email can also have an mp3 attachment of the original message.  If you need to change your mobile number where the messages are sent, that’s easily changed too (something that required a chat with SpinVox Customer Services).  Even better, as part of the web management interface they offer, you can elect to not have messages from withheld / blocked caller ID numbers transcribed; this means although you’ll still get an email with the attachment, but you won’t be disturbed with an SMS (and because the message is not converted, it does not come out of your conversion allowance either).

The number you are allocated to divert your mobile to works can be used on multiple phones (and even landlines) to being all of your voicemails into one single location.

You can also configure a custom greeting, and you can control what greeting is used via the web interface too.

Payment is via PayPal, and you can cancel at any time.

I’ve been using the service for over a month now, and have had no problems with the service; I’ve had one voicemail where the transcription was not good, but given the amount of background noise, I struggled to understand parts of the message, and I knew what the caller was talking about!  SpinVox suffers from similar problems, so this is not unique, but on other messages the message has been spot on, and at times more accurate than I would have expected from SpinVox.

If you go to the Pibbix website, you can request an invite; the service is still in beta at the moment, so you may have to wait a small while to get into the service, although generally people aren’t having to wait too long.


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Update to Socially app

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

It’s not often a new app can come along and provide similar features to an existing application, yet still be worth installing, but Socially App seems to be one such app.  If you are a heavy Twitter or Facebook user on Symbian, chances are you are already running Gravity, which is by far the best overall Social Networking client for Symbian, but that does not mean that there is not a place for Socially App on your device.

The main benefit to Socially App is that, when a call comes in, it will display the latest information that it has on the individual, based on their posting to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN.  That last point can’t be missed; Gravity does not (currently) support LinkedIN, so this app does provide a convenient way to access and update your status on a wider range of platforms.

Of course, one must not forget that if you set it to regular updates and you have Gravity doing likewise, then you run the risk of running into the API limits on Twitter that could impact the experience on both tools.

If you only have a few friends and they don’t tweet / use facebook all the time, then you can turn on Desktop alerts in the Socially App, which will put the information onto the homescreen when updates come in, but with more than a few friends, and this gets unmanageable.  Another nice touch is going into Contacts you can long press * or Fn and it will display your online contacts as opposed to your local contacts; it would be nice to see more integration along the likes of fring which creates a single list of all online and local contacts, but it’s still useful.

One other feature that the Socially App offers is the ability to screen your calls; I need to play with this some more to see how it works, and whether it’s useful in the long run, but after a brief play, it’s fair to say Socially App is definitely worth a look; not necessarily as a tool for providing updates of your status to others (and Gravity still wins here, especially as it can connect via ping.fm, which therefore allows posting to many more sites than either tool natively provides), but as a way of getting status updates of others and providing that information when phone calls come in seems a powerful feature.

If you want to try it out (and it’s currently completely free) then point your Symbian phone to m.sociallyapp.com and download the latest version.


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Novatel MiFi update

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Novatel Mifi 2352

Well, I’ve been using the Novatel 2352 MiFi device for a few months now, and the most important thing that I can say about it is that it remains one of the first things that I look for when going away travelling (whether personal or business); in fact, using it with a PAYG SIM ready for whenever needed has proved very useful over the time I have had the device for review.  I’ll write up my full findings soon, but this is a device well worth considering.

Of course, it’s about the function of the device as much as the particular device; so things like the 3UK MiFi (which is available for a lot less on PAYG) shouldn’t be discounted.  In fact, you could even buy the 3UK MiFi and iPod Touch bundle for less than you can buy the Novatel device SIM-free (of course, SIM free offers other benefits).

As I’ve said before (see here), the web interface management of the Novatel 2352 makes it easier to use than the 3UK MiFi (although I do have access to information on how to enable the web interface on the 3UK MiFi, as it was apparently disabled in the 3UK-specific firmware), and the need to only press one button for everything to turn on and setup can’t be discounted either, but at roughly 3 times the price, it’s more difficult to justify the purchase of the Novatel 2352.

Of course, the 3UK MiFi is tied to 3UK; if you were looking for a device on, say, Vodafone, you would have to plump for the Novatel 2352; or would you? I’m hearing a rumour that next month Vodafone will be launching a PAYG MiFi type device for sale through their website and stores; whether this will be the Novatel 2352 or not isn’t clear (Vodafone already sell the Novatel in other countries though), and whether the price will be more inline with the 3UK MiFi I also don’t know, but it does look like there will soon be competition in the MiFi world…


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SanDisk MicroSDHC Review

Monday, April 19th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, SanDisk kindly supplied me with a SanDisk Mobile MicroSDHC memory card for review.  Although it’s difficult to review something that “just works” I can say it seemed nice and fast when used in a camera (via an adaptor I already owned).  I also used it in a mobile phone where there was less apparent speed increase over the original memory card, but I do wonder if this was being limited more by the phone than the memory card.  Also, the phone rarely does fast reading / writing from the card to notice a difference; whereas with the camera, it seemed faster in both writing new pictures to the card, as well as playing back and reviewing pictures already taken.

As it’s designed for use in a mobile phone, the Sandisk Mobile MicroSDHC card came on its own, which is understandable.  For most people this will be fine, although providing an adaptor to allow the MicroSDHC card to be put into a laptop’s / netbook’s SD card slow would have been nice, for fast transfer of photos and music.  Having said that, I mainly upload photos from my mobile phone direct to online websites, and downloading / updating my music collection on my phone is a rare occurrence too, and often performed over Bluetooth for simplicity, so maybe the lack of an adaptor isn’t so bad after all (plus the memory card will obviously work with existing adaptors).

So, if you are in the market for a new memory card, don’t just go for the cheapest; think about whether you should invest in a device to keep your data safe, and then look at brands such as Sandisk.  Oh, and the Sandisk website also has a compatibility facility for entering the details of your device, and it will tell you which products are compatible with it (although I note it assumes you will buy the correct size, so for example if you select a device with an SD slot, it only shows you SD cards, not miniSD or microSD devices).

Thanks to SanDisk for the review memory card.


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New features in Socially App

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Socially Symbian App

Socially App is a new Social Networking application for Symbian phones.  At first, it didn’t really catch my attention as Gravity is a much more complete Twitter / Facebook / Google Reader / FourSquare client, but as Socially continues to develop, it’s functionality can’t be ignored.

One of the main functions, and shown in the screenshot above, is that it provides information on the latest SocNet updates of the person ringing you.  Now this is a useful feature; to know what’s going on with a friend just as they ring you can be very useful, especially as Socially covers Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIN (this last option something that Gravity does not currently support).

Even better, Socially App continues to develop; last week a new beta version was released which includes a lot of new functionality, but for me the key interesting feature is not about adding better Twitter support for DMs, or the ability to retweet messages, nor it is detailed information about Connections from LinkedIN; no, it’s a simple feature which has caught my attention on other platforms, and currently missing on Symbian (until now); the ability to sync Facebook photos into the local Contacts addressbook.  Although some people change their Facebook picture more often than they post on Facebook, for most people, this offers a way of keeping the pictures within your Contacts up to date without any effort, and for that, I support this feature.

If you want to try out this beta before a formal release occurs, head to m.sociallyapp.com/beta on your phone and try it out.  If you don’t want to try beta software, then head to m.sociallyapp.com for the standard release (or head to the Ovi Store).  Obviously to work, it needs a data connection to provide the information, so this, like many recent apps, isn’t really suitable without data support on your contract.


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More Detail on Ovi Maps & Maps Booster

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Nokia Maps 3.0 with Ovi

On Friday I mentioned that v3.04 of Ovi Maps was available from Nokia Beta Labs.  Since then I’ve discovered that one of the main ways that this version can claim “Improved positioning speed and accuracy” is that within the application Ovi Maps now includes support for WiFi positioning.  Now, many of us are used to seeing this feature within Google Maps, which uses both Cell ID and WiFi positioning as well as having GPS support.

This now makes 3 different solutions available for Symbian; Google and their Cell ID and WiFi positioning within Google Maps (Google positioning is also used within the latest Alpha version of Gravity, the Social Networking client for Symbian via the fairly new public API), Skyhook Wireless and their Maps Booster solution (which we covered here, and adds support for Cell ID and WiFi positioning into the OS, making it available to all apps), and now Nokia are supporting WiFi positioning within Ovi Maps (in a similar way that Google support it within their Maps application).

This is a nice feature to see, although personally I would have preferred Nokia to either work with Skyhook Wireless, or to integrate the solution into the OS in the same way that Maps Booster does, as just providing it within their own application seems a little selfish, however, it’s a good start.  After all, on the iPhone there is a single positioning system used by all applications, although I do note that Android is expanding; whereas the base OS uses Google’s system, GoWalla (a social location app similar to FourSquare) now uses the Skyhook Wireless Cell ID and WiFi positioning information.

Apparently Nokia have been working on this for some while, to the extent that for the last 6 months Nokia employees across the world have been collecting WiFi location data for Nokia, allowing them to start with a fairly comprehensive database, as opposed to starting with no data at all.  I’m still waiting to understand from Nokia how exactly the WiFi location system will work in the long term; for example, if you have GPS enabled within Google Maps, then you will help Google self-learn new Cell IDs and new WiFi access points by providing the data to Google.  This self-learning also helps when an access point moves due to the consumer moving house (something I experienced when I purchased a WiFi access point from a friend, where Google constantly placed me in the old location of the access point until sufficient GPS-based survey data lead Google’s self-learning system to move the location to my house).

In comparison, Maps Booster from Skyhook Wireless relies upon their own data collection, although there is a website where you can notify them of errors in the database, which (again, based on personal experience) only takes a few days to update with the new information.  Having said that, I don’t know whether the iPhone location positioning (that is provided by Skyhook Wireless) has any element of self-learning.

As I said, at this stage, I’m not sure what method Nokia are using for learning of changes, although I hope to be able to report on that soon.

On the other hand, I have been using Maps Booster on a couple of Symbian phones since writing about it, and I am finding it very useful.  It has had the odd little blip, where it has put me in the US a couple of times, but then over the same period of tested it, Google Maps has placed me hundreds of miles away from phone too.  It seems to me that Maps Booster has some element of caching of data, as when I am at home and in range of a number of WiFi access points, my location appears pretty instantly in Ovi Maps, whereas at work, where it relies upon cell ID only, it seems to take a little longer to place me.  Although this still relies upon having an internet connection, using it with Ovi Maps (with the maps already downloaded via the Nokia Map Updater) it uses a lot less data than Google Maps for a similar journey, which is good news.  For longer journeys, I would still recommend using the GPS to keep the location information accurate, but for short journeys, especially walking (and especially when in between tall buildings, such as London), then Maps Booster is proving to me to be as useful as Google Maps’ equivalent.

Of course, ironically just after I wrote about wondering whether I could live without Google Maps and use Ovi Maps instead, Google released Google Buzz, which shows Google is still innovating within their client, and which has probably lead to me using both clients; I would love to switch away from Google Maps, but until Nokia integrate more sharing options into their client, or applications take advantage of the Ovi Maps SDK, I’m pretty tied into Google Latitude (more than I realised when I thought I could move away from Google Maps).

Finally, over the weekend I asked Nokia to comment on the situation regarding coverage on elder phones, and received the comment “It’s coming”.  Now I can’t guarantee that was aimed at FP1 (as opposed to supporting more FP2 phones which is still formally missing), but I think we’ll see an announcement from Nokia on this issues soon, but not immediately (I would suggest another few months before we see anything definitive).


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Nokia Booklet 3G Review

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Nokia Booklet 3G

ZOMG It’s CJ has just published it’s review of the Nokia Booklet 3G, and it’s a very impressive review, covering all areas of the device, with a massive number of pictures too.  It’s well worth a read to find out more about this High End (although only medium spec) stylish netbook.

I was fortunate to be able to spend half an hour with a Nokia Booklet 3G a couple of weeks ago, and was quietly impressed.  The device was light, stylish, and very nice to use.  It’s not perfect though; due to the nicely sized keyboard (with a nice gap between each of the keys), the screen looks quite small in the top, and in fact, I wonder if Nokia will increase the screen size within the current laptop frame sometime soon.

The particular unit I tried also suffered from a small irritant in that the screen hinge was too loose, and allowed the screen to move too easily, making it difficult to walk around with the device in one hand (yes, not the best way to carry a laptop, but something that many people will do).  At times it felt like the screen would not stay put, although it never moved on it’s own it didn’t feel right (and speaking with others, this fault does not appear to afflict other models).

However, the main problem I found was the 1GB of memory made Windows 7 a little sluggish, and again, hopefully a memory upgrade will come soon to improve the device.  I wasn’t able to test the 3G functionality, but having 3G and HDMI built in does make the device very useful, and the battery was rather impressive too.  One other minor issue was that after being used solidly for over an hour, the CPU was making the case a little warm.

All in all, if you are after a very stylish device with a similar design ethos to a Macbook, but running Windows, then this device is worth a look; if you don’t need the latest greatest kit, I would suggest possibly waiting until the next version comes out to make it a truly all round device.

Thanks to the team at WOM World Nokia for letting me have a play with the Booklet (and thanks for the hospitality when I dropped in unannounced).


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INQ Chat 3G Review

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

INQ Chat & INQ Mini

In terms of the majority of the software on the phone, it’s very similar to the INQ Mini 3G that I covered here and here, so what’s different about the Chat, what’s good, and what’s bad?

Well, that QWERTY keyboard is the main physical difference, and it is a very nice keyboard.  It’s similar to the Symbian QWERTY layout, and just slightly different to the BlackBerry layout (the Symbol and Shift keys are reversed compared to a BlackBerry, which makes it a challenge to get used to if you are a long term BlackBerry user).

A GPS is the other key difference to the INQ Mini 3G, and to be honest, it sometimes took it’s time to get a fix, but generally worked ok.  The included Google Maps worked well with the GPS.  Unlike Symbian devices, there is no configuration control over the GPS settings, so no facility for changing the Positioning Server over to Google to help speed up the initial fix.  One downside of Google Maps was it was expecting numeric key input, and that meant pressing the Symbol and the relevant key to emulate a number; it was a shame it wasn’t aware of the QWERTY and mapped keys allowing a single key press for functions.  As with all Brew OS devices, there is no cell ID location function within Google Maps, which limits you to waiting for the GPS to find a fix; if you are used to a device that can also use cell ID location information, then this seems to impact the fast “locate me” type functions when you know roughly where you are and just want to seatch for something local to your position…

In general terms, the integration of the Social Networking apps remains a key selling point of this phone, bringing together Skype, Facebook and Twitter, and linking the first two into the Contact List too.  Personally, it felt like the Twitter app was more of an add-on, with less integration than the other two, and no facilities for downloading contacts or avatars like the Facebook and Skype apps offer.

It’s nice to see the INQ Hub included as standard on the INQ Chat 3G (see here for how to access from the INQ Mini 3G), and overall the phone seemed a nice device.  For a device which can be described as a smartphone (although only just, given it’s limited to Java apps) the battery lasted well over a day, and unless you are using Twitter, Facebook, Windows Live Messenger and Skype constantly, should easily last two days.  With all 3 apps turned on, it still managed to last over a full working day, which is certainly a key timeframe.

Compared to Symbian, the lack of worrying about Access Points and just letting the device go ahead and connect to the Internet for you was a nice refreshing change, although for many it may fell like a level of control has been taken away from you.  Of course, with no WiFi support, the only option is 3G connectivity, which helps with the simplification.

So, overall, you may think my opinion is that this is a good, cheap phone worthy of consideration…? Well, I’m afraid it wasn’t as perfect as I would have liked…  Firstly, start running all those Social Networking apps together, and the phone often freezes when one of them is performing an update in the background, which can leave the phone locked for a minute or two, and although it doesn’t come with the Social Networking support out of the box (yet), buying a Nokia E63 and adding Gravity (plus the 3UK specific Skype and WLM apps) gets you very close, with the additional benefit of a true multitasking OS, and WiFi support too (although no GPS).  If it wasn’t for the device feeling so underpowered, then I would be supporting it as a worthy device, but it did occasionally leave me very frustrated.

So, if you don’t want to run all the Social Networking apps all the time,but want a device with a QWERTY keyboard, and the ability to use your favourite Social Networking sites out of the box, then certainly go and try out the INQ Chat 3G; you may be pleasantly surprised at the functionality on offer given the price, and hopefully a firmware update, or software updates will resolve the responsiveness issues I found.

As always, thanks to 3mobilebuzz for the loan of the device, and if you want more information, or to purchase an INQ Chat 3G, then head to the 3Store to see more.


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