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Phones

3 INQ1: Mobile social networking for everyone

3's latest phone has neither GPS nor Wi-Fi, but it keeps you connected to your friends in a simple way and is incredibly good value

Today Crave went along to see 3's latest offering, the INQ1. Designed as a low-cost social-networking phone, the oddly named INQ1 gives you access to a panoply of services that will keep you connected to your friends almost everywhere you go. What makes the INQ1 stand out is how well integrated everything is, especially Facebook.

With just a few clicks of the INQ1 you'll be able to access most of Facebook's features. What's particularly clever is that it then ties all your Facebook contacts into your address book, along with your Skype and Windows Live contacts. The INQ1 then connects all that information in your phone's contact list, alongside telephone numbers.

So if you get a call from a friend, their Facebook profile pic pops up. When you're on the Tube or in the middle of nowhere and don't have a signal, you can still compose a Facebook message, and it will automatically be sent when you reconnect. Not groundbreaking stuff perhaps, but it does make using the FB much easier on the go -- and it's much cheaper than a bells-and-whistles smart phone. Click 'Continue' for more info.

We didn't think much of the INQ1 when we saw its picture, but when you pick one up it's actually quite a classy mobile. A medium-sized screen provides enough room to view Facebook and text messages on, and a large keypad makes dialling and texting straightforward. We hope the next INQ handset has a full Qwerty keypad for easily tapping out long messages on.

As we mentioned earlier, Facebook isn't the only thing on offer. The INQ also lets you make Skype calls, send instant messages over Windows Live Messenger and listen to Last.fm on the go. Add to that push email and a Web browser and you've got plenty to keep you busy. Unlike the iPhone or T-Mobile G1 though, this Internet-friendly phone won't dent your bank balance...

INQ had to make some sacrifices in order to bring the price down, so there's only a 3.2-megapixel camera, no Wi-Fi and no GPS, although you do get HSDPA (3.5G). You don't get any on-board memory either, but you can add memory via an expandable microSD slot. The INQ1 isn't trying to be a super-phone, it's trying to be a super-social phone. 3 is aiming at people who want the ability to network on the go, but not pay for tonnes of other smartphone features they're never going to use.

You can pick up an INQ1 for as little as £15 per month, including unlimited free Facebook, Skype, Windows Live Messenger and Web access, plus 75 minutes of calls to other networks, unlimited texts, unlimited email and unlimited free 3-to-3 calls. For £20 you get all of the above, but with 200 minutes of calls to other networks. The INQ1 will also be available on pay as you go for £80, with Internet packages available from £5 per month.