The INQ Cloud Touch is one of this year’s so-called ‘Facebook phones’. Though it wears it Facebook credentials on its sleeve, the Cloud Touch isn’t developed by Facebook itself but by INQ – a phone maker owned by Hutchinson Whampoa, who also own the Three network here in the UK. We’ve spent plenty of time Liking and Commenting on statuses through the Cloud Touch and have put its Facebooking powers to the test.
The INQ Cloud Touch will be available exclusively from the Carphone Warehouse for three months when it launches on the 6th of April this year.
What we like
The INQ Cloud Touch eats, sleeps and drinks Facebook. When you set up the phone for the first time you’re automatically prompted to log in to Facebook.
Once this is done, the INQ Cloud Touch goes about grabbing all of your Facebook information and integrates it into every nook and cranny of the phone. The calendar for example, becomes populated with Facebook Events that you’ve clicked ‘Attending’ on.
When you select an individual contact from your phone book, you’ll be taken to the page containing their mobile number and email like normal, as well as two extra tabs for their Facebook Wall and Photos. Naturally you can comment and Like stuff on their Wall/Photos as normal from here, just as you would do on the Facebook app.
It’s as if someone put Facebook on a phone, but rather than restricting access to it through a single app, they’ve added a hundred other doors and shortcuts to it.
Or, to extend the metaphor, it’s like there’s a party with all of your friends, family members and colleagues inside and somebody has thrown open all the doors, windows and fire escapes, allowing you to get in from virtually anywhere. It makes us wish that Facebook was like this on all phones, Android or otherwise.
There’s a pre-loaded shortcut for just about every Facebook function you can imagine. From the little taskbar which runs across the bottom of the screen there’s shortcuts to Facebook Chat, your News Feed, your Profile, Messages, Friend Requests and Photos.
As well as Facebook, you get the Spotify Android app pre-loaded on the Cloud Touch. Great news if you’re a premium subscriber, but if you’re not you can still use the app as a music player for your own playlists.
The dedicated media key on the side of the phone fires up Spotify with a long press and you can pause/play tracks using the same key. We downloaded MixZing and DoubleTwist (two popular Android music players) and found that the music key worked with those as well.
When the camera of the INQ Cloud Touch is active, this same key acts as a shutter button. The 5-megapixel camera features a 4 x digital zoom and a handful of fun effects like sepia and negative.
As with Spotify we were equally chuffed to discover that SwiftKey had been installed on the Cloud Touch. If you’ve never used SwiftKey before its advantages will become apparent soon enough. Basically, it’s a Qwerty keypad with sentence prediction bolted on. As well as offering you corrections for typos, it offers you what it thinks to be the next word in a sentence as well. Normally you’d have to pay around £2.50 for SwiftKey, so it’s great to see if bunged in here for free.
There’s a dedicated settings key located on the left hands side of the Cloud Touch. This loads up a customised Settings menu from where you can easily toggle things like Wi-Fi and GPS without having to dive in and out of hundreds of menu options. At a glance, you can also see how much battery power you have left, displayed in terms of both talk time and music playback time. Neat.
Finally, we love the custom Android UI that INQ has created for the Cloud Touch. Many custom Android UIs appear to be simple rethinks of vanilla Android. But what INQ has done is create something striking and different.
The scrollable Windows/OSX-style taskbar at the bottom of the screen and the inky black unlocker are two things unique to INQ. These provide a refreshing break from predictable Android custom jobs.
What we don’t like
Lack of any kind of flash or photo light means that the INQ Cloud Touch isn’t that great at taking snaps on a night out. Unless there’s a decent source of light, 5-megapixel camera (which is otherwise OK) won’t be of much use.
The INQ Cloud Touch’s screen isn’t the highest resolution one we’ve seen, which means that sometimes it’s hard to see how good or bad your pictures actually are, until you transfer them to your computer and see them on a big monitor.
The touchscreen isn’t hugely responsive either, which can make tapping out a text message or email occasionally frustrating.
The Cloud Touch is sometimes a little slow to load Google Maps and big websites like the Guardian, and that’s even over Wi-Fi or with full 3G/HSDPA signal. It’s not intended to be a bleeding-edge smartphone though, so non-lightning quick speeds are to be expected.
As such, it’s not going to be able to handle any of the high-end games that are now starting to hit the Android Market. It plays Angry Birds fine though.
We noticed a glitch when testing out the lock screen widget of the MixZing app and the dedicated music key. We somehow managed to get the INQ Cloud Touch playing two songs at once. While this may have unintended hilarious results (like our Swans/Lady Gaga mash up), we suspect this is a glitch that’ll be ironed out in future updates. Or a problem that’s unique to our review model.
Generally, the build quality is very good – the phone feels solid enough and we wouldn’t be worried if we dropped it. But the thick red and white plastic hides might be a turn off for some.
It feels like INQ has handpicked some of the best things that Android has to offer – Facebook, Spotify, SwiftKey – and wrapped it up in an eye-catching and easy to use custom user interface. We think that the INQ Cloud Touch will be a hit with its intended target audience of young(ish) Facebook addicts. Those craving a powerhouse smartphone will probably want to look elsewhere – the 800 MHz processor and lack of support for higher end games and apps won’t satisfy.
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