Inq Cloud Touch preview

We can't accuse Inq of having the best timing in the world -- the company announced its new Facebook-centric Cloud Touch and Cloud Q phones at about the same time that HP was busy blowing minds with its new webOS range in San Francisco -- but at least that gave us an excuse to get out of the Engadget bunker this morning and go check out some new gear. We've gotten to grips with the 3.5-inch touchscreen-equipped Cloud Touch and have broken down our first impressions of the device for you after the break. Aside from Facebook, Inq has chosen to integrate Spotify Premium into this phone along with Fluency, the typing prediction engine that powers SwiftKey. The two serve as significant upgrades on the default media player and keyboard software, respectively, and add a nice sprinkling of value to a phone that's already expected to go easy on the wallet. The gallery below will illustrate anything else you may need or want to know, although you'll have to check out the video to see the multifunctional unlock screen and Facebook widgetry in action.

Our first glance at the Cloud Touch immediately brought HTC's Wildfire to mind, thanks to its rounded edges and infusion of color, and playing with it kept that impression up. The Wildfire offers a smaller display and resolution than the Cloud Touch's 3.5-inch HVGA panel, however, and of course lacks the turbocharged Facebook integration that Inq has introduced here. Running Android 2.2 as the underlying platform, the Cloud Touch is dominated by what amounts to an enlarged and enhanced Facebook widget sat atop the home screen. It feeds you news, notifications and updates from your precious Friends, while Facebook's Social Graph API is also exploited to pick out your top five most-contacted friends as a sort of automated shortlist, which is what you're presented with once you enter the app.

Beneath that Facebook jumbotron, you get an app-launching dock that dedicates one half of its links to basic functions like the camera and browser and stacks another set of Facebook options on the other half. You slide it left and right to pick which section you're looking at and it generally works very nicely. Speaking of performance, we've got to say we were pleasantly surprised by the Cloud Touch -- it only has a humble 600MHz Qualcomm MSM7227 processor inside, but for such a modest spec, it really doesn't feel limited by any excess of lag. Then again, as you'll see in the video below, loading up the camera and processing images taken with the 5 megapixel sensor does take quite a while longer here than on your typical 1GHz Snapdragon. Still, with the right sort of pricing, we can definitely recommend this as an uncomplicated entry-level device -- it has the basic ergonomics, resolution, and (acceptable) UI responsiveness to facilitate your rampant socializing, while neat extras like the large, above-average loudspeaker on the back and additional hard keys on the sides (one for a system info panel and another to play / pause music) make it a well rounded value proposition. The Cloud Touch is launching in the UK in April, which is when we should know exactly how much that value will cost us.