INQ Mini 3G and INQ Chat offer slimmer, sexier angle on "social mobile" segment

INQ's unique take on the featurephone just got a significant facelift in the form of the new INQ Mini 3G and the INQ Chat. Leaving behind the INQ1's last-gen looks, the new INQ Chat offers a QWERTY keyboard in an E71-esque chassis, 2.4-inch screen, GPS and a 3.2 megapixel auto focus camera, while the Mini 3G takes up the T9er's mantle with a slim candybar form factor, 2.2-inch screen and 2 megapixel camera. The big deal of course is still the (award winning) software side, which already includes features such as Skype, Facebook and Windows Live Messenger integration, along with a Synergy-style integrated address book. New additions include a Twitter app, push Gmail, and iTunes syncing, courtesy of DVD Jon's doubleTwist software, and INQ claims that it'll be much more proactive with software updates this time around. The phones are only dipping their toes into the media playback pool, with hardly any onboard storage, empty microSD slots, and the ever-annoying USB-to-3.5mm converter headphone jack situation, but all the parts are there. INQ's also going to pull together an "app store" of sorts by curating freely available Java applets compatible with the handsets.

We had a look at the phones, and while the style might seem aggressive for some, the build of both phones is pretty quality for the target market, and they're certainly tighter in the design department than the INQ1. The keyboard on the INQ Chat is quite good, especially for featurephone land, and we like that INQ kept some T9-style predictive text in the software to make QWERTY use even more of a pleasure. No, these phones still don't replace smartphones, but they're designed to be a low-cost alternative to the smartphone for carriers, who are a little tired of heavy phone subsidies and intense data use from the iPhone types -- and sure wouldn't mind making a few bucks off your Facebook addiction. Unfortunately, there still aren't any plans for bringing these phones to the States. INQ is "in talks," but for now these handsets are Europe bound, and should hit stores by Q4.