We’re extremely late with this review but wanted to spend a bit of time with INQ’s interesting Android-powered “Facebook phone” all the same, what with it using a super-customised Android 2.2 OS and featuring plenty of interesting-looking interface tweaks.
We didn’t understand it and wanted to understand it. So let’s put the INQ Cloud Touch on the mahogany-effect Eurodroid test bench and have a look at the thing, and learn to understand it together.
You get a responsive and solid 3.5″ capacitive touchscreen, with three backlit capacitive buttons beneath. It’s all in a nice, rounded case, and feels like a well-made and chunky device. We were expecting it to be a bit “toy town” and plasticky, but it’s actually a nice thing to hold.
And there’s a hardware innovation! INQ has put on a little information button (what it calls the “Quick Access Info Key”) on the top-left of the body, which when pressed…
…brings up the above customised, graphical notifications screen. This will be a god-send to new and casual smartphone users, as it’ll save hours of fiddling about and learning where the most common settings and functions are hidden. Nice touch. You also get the standard Android pull-down Notifications window.
Back on the hardware side of things, there’s a 5megapixel camera without flash, headphone and USB connectors along the top of the phone, volume rocker to the right and a physical camera shutter button at the bottom of the right-hand edge.
The Cloud Touch user interface has added quite a few features to its Android 2.2 base, with its lock screen featuring a similar “quick launch” system as the HTC Sensation . Three icons sit along the bottom, submerged beneath some fictional water. You pop them over the surface to unlock the phone or gain easy access to the camera or INQ’s built-in messaging system.
As well as the standard Android QWERTY keyboard, INQ has pre-loaded a version of TouchType’s popular SwiftKey text entry system on here. We’re huge fans of the next-word-guessing system and it’s bound to make message entry much easier for the Cloud Touch’s casual users.
As for the famed Facebook integration? It’s basically one massive widget which pulls in status updates, along with a collection of smaller icons along the top that work as shortcuts to Facebook functions. Most buttons simply link to pages within the Android Facebook app.
The collection of shortcut icons in the dock area at the bottom of the screen can be scrolled, bringing up some of the more low-key Facebook options like access to the messaging system and the Chat window. You can also edit the dock icons if you want, too, switching their positions with a long-press and a little toggle menu (above right).
And you’re able to edit many of the Cloud Touch’s other interface features, from selecting the number of Home screens you want to use, picking which Home screen you want to be the “main” one the phone defaults to when booting and exiting apps, plus there’s a range of editable gesture shortcuts to access certain functions.
Basically, INQ has added loads of nice new options, and it’s done a great job on almost everything. It’s an odd interface, but one we really enjoyed using that adds a lot of extra functionality. We just don’t like the stylised icons, which look a bit “CBBC” in places.
The Cloud Touch runs Angry Birds just about, certainly better than the little Vodafone SMART – but you will notice things starting to glitch when lots of boxes fall and the physics engine has to start calculating events. And there’s no Flash Player support. Which we don’t mind, but it means no iPlayer – a bit of a shame for the casual user.
INQ’s also integrated Spotify and put it in as a pre-loaded Home screen widget, although you’ll need a paid account to actually do anything other than sync playlists through your home network. The standard Android Music player is in here too.
Camera samples. Some pretty good output. Everything looks like it’s had a retro filter applied to it (it hasn’t!), which produces interesting results. There’s no flash, mind, so make it your “daytime” camera only.
Detail is pretty good for a 5megapixel mobile sensor on a budget phone. In fact, we quite like the Cloud Touch’s quirky, filtered colour output. You may not, but the way you never get the same colour reproduction twice makes using it an exciting lottery!
The camera software is the bland stock Android option, with a 4x digital zoom, a few colour effect modes (sepia, negative and the other pointless regulars), saturation and sharpness levels and a handful of white balance modes.
Nothing amazing, but it is nice to have a physical camera button – although we found ourselves using the touchscreen anyway to reduce movement caused by pressing the rigid proper button.
A still from a video. The camera does a good job of switching between light and dark areas and maintains a decent frame rate, although the 640×480 resolution clips are rather blocky and never that impressive. Download an unedited sample clip here [9MB].
You do get plenty of customisation options when recording video, including the option to specify both video and audio codecs. A bizarrely “hardcore” collection of options in a mainstream mobile phone.
As for external video support… we had a total failure to play any of our usual test media. DivX & Xvid AVIs, WMV and MP4 files all came up blank. To be fair, the INQ tech specs only claim it can manage MP4 and H.263 and H.264 format files, though, so it should be able to handle commercial paid downloads OK. Just don’t expect to play your collection of ripped downloads.
Web browsing is standard Android all the way. Works fine. The Cloud Touch is pretty quick at displaying pages, plus there’s multitouch support for easy zooming. No complaints or obvious problems here, apart from the lack of Flash support.
We did have one hardware problem with the phone. The wi-fi absolutely refused to remember our preferred network, meaning that every time we wanted to use it we had to open up the settings and manually choose our specific network. Literally every time. Literally. That’s never happened before, so we’re blaming INQ.
Despite the video format failure and odd, hopefully-just-down-to-us wi-fi issues, we’re oddly impressed by the Could Touch as a package. A quick scout of the online retailers finds the thing available for around £170, which is a good price for a nicely performing Android 2.2 phone.
Don’t let the Facebook claims put you off – it’s just a collection of widgets and dock icons, so is easily removed if you’re an anti-social male. The real strength of the INQ Cloud Touch comes from offering an interesting take on Android, with some clever features and interface customisations, all in a pleasingly chunky little case.
We’d happily consider using one as our “main” phone, if it would ever connect to our wi-fi without causing such a drama. And if we could have a black one.