Could free INQ rain on BlackBerry Storm launch?

14 Nov 2008

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3 has revealed that its low-cost alternative to both the Apple iPhone and the BlackBerry Storm – the social network-oriented INQ backed by Hutchison Whampoa, Microsoft, Skype and Facebook – will hit the market around the same week the Storm is due for release.

A spokesperson for 3 Ireland told siliconrepublic.com that the INQ1 will be available in the Irish market in the first week of December.

Yesterday in London the INQ1 was launched by Hutchison Whampoa, 3’s parent company.

The INQ integrates Facebook into the heart of the handset, along with Skype, Windows Live Messenger and Last.fm.

In the UK, the INQ1 will be available free on a contract tariff from £15 sterling per month, offering 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.

Twenty pounds sterling will get you all of the above but with 200 minutes of calls to other networks. INQ will also be available on a pay-as-you-go basis for £79.99 sterling with internet packages available from £5 sterling per month.

The device, developed by handset manufacturer INQ, is based on a new approach to mobile phone design. INQ, which is backed by Hutchison Whampoa, has developed INQ in collaboration with the 3 Group in an effort to overcome the limitations of traditional design and internet functionality on handsets.

“The INQ1 is the first device from INQ with a new take on mobile user experience, it’s about taking the things people love most about the internet and building them into the very heart of the phone,” said INQ CEO, Frank Meehan.

“Mobile is still mostly about voice and text for the vast majority of users, but those same people use the internet to communicate every day with Skype, Instant Messaging, Facebook and email. The INQ1 allows people for the first time to integrate their internet networks into their mobile, so now their emails, instant messages and Skype calls are as simple to use as voice and text.

“With our Hutchison Whampoa backing, we’ve got the experience of providing compelling mobile internet services to nearly 20 million 3G customers around the world. This experience has taught us that traditional handset manufacturers just aren’t delivering what customers are demanding, and so we’ve had to develop our own, unique device in order to overcome this.”

3 UK chief executive Kevin Russell said that the cutting-edge new handsets will democratise and mobilise the internet.

“3’s own exclusive handsets have already delivered the first unlimited data tariffs, the first free, open instant messenger services and the first fully-integrated Skype-enabled phone. INQ1 takes these services, and more, to offer a uniquely powerful and competitively priced mass-market internet phone. INQ1 on 3 offers you the most sociable phone on the most sociable network.

“Facebook has more than 120 million users worldwide, and is as core to the phone as voice or text.  Our network helps to unleash the power of these cutting-edge handsets and offers consumers easy, great value access.  We’re democratising and mobilising the internet.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that more than 15 million users currently access the site through their mobile devices.

“This number has doubled over the past six months, and we expect it to continue to grow as people become even more familiar with handsets like the INQ1,” Zuckerberg said.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: the INQ1, which is aiming to democratise and mobilise the internet

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com