HTC Salsa vs INQ Cloud Touch in Facebook phone face-off

We got our hands on the HTC Salsa, a good-looking mobile with a special Facebook button -- but it faces social-networking competition from the affordable INQ Cloud Touch.

HTC has delivered a truckload of brand-new smart phones this morning at Mobile World Congress, including two new mobiles built around Facebook. We reckon the HTC Salsa is the hero of the two -- the Qwerty-sporting HTC ChaCha is definitely the hip-swinging sidekick. But the Salsa has a real social-networking rival in the shape of the new INQ Cloud Touch -- so which is the better phone for Facebook addicts?

HTC Salsa

We've already given the HTC Salsa a full in-depth preview , but nestled in HTC's press conference in Barcelona we've finally been given the chance to get some up close and personal photos with its new phones. Click through the photos above to dip the salty tortillas of your curiosity into the HTC Salsa for yourself, then let us know what you reckon in the comments below, or on our Facebook wall.

The Salsa has a dedicated Facebook button nestled underneath the standard four touch-sensitive buttons, and when you hit that key, it'll bring up Friend Stream -- HTC's own social-networking app for Twitter and Facebook. From here you can post a status update or upload photos to Facebook, depending on how long you hold down the button for.

Handy, but a dedicated shortcut button isn't going to save you that much time when Friend Stream is located on one of the Salsa's homescreens anyway. That said, the official Facebook app for Android is woeful, so anything that gives us more control is appreciated.

Facebook has also been baked into the Salsa's calendar and address book. Your Facebook events will show up in the calendar, and you can see the wall for that event too, so you can see which of your buddies will be in attendance. The address book will show you which of your mates are online and free for a natter on Facebook's Chat program.

Cool features then, even if we're not totally convinced they warrant a great big Facebook logo slapped on the front of your mobile. The real strength of the Salsa is HTC's user interface -- HTC Sense, the skin the company puts over Android version 2.4 Gingerbread, a minor update from version 2.3 that fixes a few bugs. It's a really great UI and having used the special Facebook features on the Salsa, we can tell you the various features are handled really well. It's intuitive and quick, and this is where the Salsa -- and indeed HTC -- excels.

The Salsa will probably be quite expensive when it launches, however. HTC makes high-quality mobiles, and the hardware inside doesn't come cheap (at least, not to you). So is INQ's more affordable offering preferable to Facebook fanatics?

INQ Cloud Touch

The INQ Cloud Touch has a 3.5-inch touchscreen, and will be running Android 2.2 Froyo. That's not as cutting-edge as the Salsa's 2.4 Gingerbread, but the differences are minimal -- you'll still get Flash support in the browser for example, and access to the thousands of apps in the Android Market.

The Facebook features are impressive. Widgets on the home screen, for example, will stream through your friends' updates, and other widgets act as shortcuts for contacting your favourite Facebook friends. It determines who your BFFs are using Facebook's social-graph data, so it automatically figures out who you interact with the most. There's also a scrolling bar of shortcuts that provides links to other popular Facebook services, Places and Chat, for example.

It's somewhat futureproof too -- INQ told us that because its widgets are snugly fitted to Facebook's own API, new features will appear automatically on the phone, and you won't have to wait for a major software update.

We'd be very surpised if the Cloud Touch was as slick and luxurious overall as the HTC Salsa, but it does have one killer feature -- it'll be cheap. You'll be able to snag the Cloud Touch from Carphone Warehouse for free on a £20 per month contract.

Verdict

The Salsa and Cloud Touch have different ways of presenting Facebook, but they both look like capable social mobiles, that will keep you in touch, and keep others in touch with you, while you're out and about.

Which one should you opt for? Wait for our full in-depth reviews of both mobiles before making a decision, but we reckon the HTC Salsa will be considerably more slick overall, and if your budget will stretch, we think it's liable to be a great all-round smart phone too. But if you're pinching those pennies, the INQ Cloud Touch looks like a great budget offering.

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About the author

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

 

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