INQ has given geeky Android a makeover and taken it to the cool kid's party, so it can make out with the cutest robot in school. The Cloud Touch's innovative Facebook widgets could be improved, and you need a subscription to make the most of the built-in Spotify music player, but INQ's additions to Android are still appealing, and phone has a real sense of fun about it.
The Cloud Touch is available for free on an £18-per-month contract, or SIM-free for about £240.
INQ claims the Cloud Touch's design is based on that of the iPhone 3GS. We can't see the resemblance, beyond the fact that both have screens and are phone-shaped. Nevertheless, this plastic handset feels comfortable to hold. It's available in black, white or red. It may not be to your taste, but we love the attention-grabbing red colour.
The three touch-sensitive buttons along the bottom of the screen look rather childish, but they do the job. We like the Cloud Touch's lock screen -- you drag an icon from the bottom of the display up to the middle of the screen, where it bounces around entertainingly before the screen is unlocked. You can drag a camera icon to fire up the snapper right away, or drag a keyboard icon to start typing text, which can then be sent in a message, used to search the phone or the Web, or saved as a note. Alternatively, you can just drag up a padlock icon to unlock the screen normally.
The phone's on-screen keyboard is responsive and easy to use. Not only does it have a predictive-text feature that suggests words as you type them, it also offers suggestions for the next word that you might want to add. It's surprisingly handy, and just goes to show that phones are getting smarter than we are. Next, phones will automatically call the person we're daydreaming about.
The Cloud Touch may be cheap but, thankfully, it doesn't cut corners when it comes to usability. The 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen feels responsive, and it's large enough to enable some serious Web surfing. Browsing is a treat, thanks to Android having one of the best browsers in the business. The low resolution of the screen, however, means that we often had to zoom in quite far before the text on Web pages became clear and readable. It's a compromise that's to be expected on an affordable phone.
INQ has also whipped up a built-in Wi-Fi feature that will help you stay connected if your mobile contract has a low data allowance, while saving battery juice at the same time. When you sign into a Wi-Fi hotspot -- whether at home or out and about -- the phone saves the GPS location. When you leave the hotspot, the Wi-Fi connection is switched off automatically, until you wander into the next location that's saved on your phone. INQ told us that leaving GPS on and turning Wi-Fi off can increase the phone's battery life by 15 per cent, as compared to leaving Wi-Fi on and GPS off.
You can turn on the Wi-Fi manually to connect to a new hotspot, and that location will get saved too. There's also a worldwide database of free hotspots so, if you approach one of them, the Wi-Fi connection will then wake up automatically. Every INQ phone user's hotspot discoveries also get fed back into the database. You can thank us for the hotspots that we added to the database, at home and at CNET UK Towers. We didn't run into any others that seemed to make the phone connect automatically, but we didn't take the handset on many journeys during our tests. Only time will tell if INQ's database of hotspots is worthwhile.
Since Wi-Fi is always turning on and off, INQ has tried to make it easy to access the connectivity controls quickly. A button on the upper-left-hand side of the phone launches an information page, on which you'll find shortcuts to settings like Wi-Fi, and a dashboard that shows data about the phone's battery life and other details. We're big fans of this feature. It's very handy to have quick access to your alarms, and an estimate of how long you can talk or listen to music for before the battery will conk out.
Spot the Spotify
Another button on the right-hand side of the phone launches the music player. INQ has ditched the uninspiring standard Android music player in favour of a the app on the iPhone, you don't have to buy a subscription to Spotify to use it. If you do have a subscription, you can stream infinite tunes. If you don't have a subscription, you can use the app just to listen to songs you already own, since Spotify also syncs with your own MP3 collection.app. But, unlike
Without a Spotify subscription, though, the app isn't much fun. For one thing, it asks you to sign in every time it opens, which could quickly become very annoying. Also, many of the features, like playlists, won't work without a subscription. If you're not charmed by the wonders of Spotify, you can switch back to the standard Android music app. You can also download an alternative music player from the Android Market.