The INQ Chat 3G takes the popular, inexpensive INQ 1 and slaps a full Qwerty keyboard on top. It's an addition as delicious as gravy on a pile of mashed potatoes, but the Chat 3G doesn't live up to the BlackBerry devices that it emulates.
The Chat 3G is available from 3 for £90 on a pay-as-you-go deal, or £15 per month on a contract.
Look at the Chat 3G from an angle and you could easily confuse it with a BlackBerry -- it has the distinctive landscape screen and Qwerty keyboard. That look has proved popular with business-focused phones from the Nokia E71 to the HTC Snap, but the Chat 3G targets the twittering Facebook addict rather than the email-happy business suit.
Like its predecessor, the INQ 1, the Chat 3G is no smart phone, but it comes pre-loaded with a pack of social-networking apps that help you keep connected on the go. The user interface is bright, simple and playful, with colourful images highlighting the menu options. Navigation is straightforward, thanks to a five-way function key, and, although the screen doesn't have a very high resolution, text is clear and easy to read.
The addition of a Qwerty keyboard means that text messages and status updates are easy to type out. The keys lack the angled texture of the ones on the top-of-the-line BlackBerry Bold 9700, and there's no space between them. But they are as puffy as plush pillows, so we had no trouble pecking out our missives at top speed.
On the downside, you're restricted to the basic applications that the Chat 3G supports, so you can't install the same range of powerful apps and games that you could on a smart phone. We found that the Chat 3G could be sluggish at times, taking a few moments to register our clicks when using applications such as Facebook, or browsing through the customisable shortcuts on the home screen.
This handset has 3G to keep you connected at top speed on the go, but it doesn't have Wi-Fi. This means that large downloads, such as videos, will take a while and possibly stretch your data allowance. On the other hand, we like that you can connect your laptop to the Chat 3G with a USB cable and piggyback its 3G connection to surf the Web on the big screen.
The biggest fly in the Chat 3G's soup is the BlackBerry Curve 8520. RIM recently released this budget-level BlackBerry into the wild, and, although it lacks 3G, it has Wi-Fi and access to everything you'd expect from a BlackBerry -- that means world-leading push email and access to all of the applications in the BlackBerry App World. It also has a zippy optical trackpad (instead of a five-way function key), a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and dedicated music keys.
On a pay-as-you-go deal, the Chat 3G is significantly less expensive than the 8520 -- £90 compared to about £150 -- but they're both available on the cheapest £15-pound-a-month contracts. At the same price, the 8520 is the vastly superior choice.
You look fabulous
The theme of the stylish, artistic menu icons is continued on the phone's wallpaper, welcome screen and even its box. The phone comes with a glossy red back, but the battery cover is interchangeable with yellow, pink or black versions. It looks very good for a budget phone, but it does feel flimsy.
The INQ Chat 3G has a good design and features for a budget phone, and we appreciate its attractive case and funky menus. The Qwerty keyboard and social-networking apps, along with the 3G connectivity, did a good job of keeping us connected, but the phone was often slow and unresponsive, and the BlackBerry Curve 8520 offers many more features for the same price.
Edited by Charles Kloet