Era of the social phone – 3 assesses INQ Cloud Touch

11 Feb 2011

With the GSMA Mobile World Congress kicking off this weekend and rumours of Facebook-themed phones hitting the market, 3 Ireland has confirmed it is assessing the new INQ Cloud Touch and Cloud Q handsets.

If CES in Las Vegas was anything to go by, this year’s GSMA 2011 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, will endeavour to encapsulate a wider trend driven not only by smartphones, but by tablets. I have no doubt Google’s Android operating system will be the star of this year’s show with Gingerbread (2.3) and Honeycomb (3.0) offering tangible evidence of the future that is now. CES was very much led by connected and 3D TVs with the odd tablet like Motorola’s XOOM or RIM’s PlayBook making occasional appearances in the limelight.

What this year’s Mobile World Congress will endeavour to communicate is how in reality mobile devices are already surpassing personal computers as the primary tool to access the internet and reveal other objectives, such as bringing more people in the developing world to the internet via mobile, near field communications as a financial revolution and, of course, the social mobile web.

While Facebook has quashed rumours of it bringing out its own phone, my theory is there is nothing to stop other manufacturers like HTC or INQ bringing out phones particularly designed for the social generation. These could be phones that, per se, are designed around the ‘Like’ button, uploading photos and video, expanding your social network and much more.

Affordable social phones for the masses – expensive smartphones for the elite?

HTC may indeed reveal two devices that are Facebook oriented. And why not even theme phones for the power Twitter user? These already exist as apps on the Apple iPhone and various Android phones, but what about affordable, lower-priced devices aimed at people who have a particular social network in mind?

Two such devices that will be launched at the Mobile World Congress next week are the INQ Cloud Touch and Cloud Touch devices which are fundamentally Facebook phones carved around the authentic Facebook experience. Location-based ‘check-ins’, instant online chat, Facebook Events as your diary, your friends list as your phone book and Facebook Messages as your email. Use Facebook Wall to send a text message!

Facebook doesn’t need to develop its own phone if others are willing to do it for them. Mobile networks who want to be part of the rich internet experience rather than solely a utility will certainly lap up such devices.

INQ’s main provider in Ireland is mobile operator 3, which has brought out the previous two generations of INQ’s affordable smartphones.

I asked 3 if they’ll be carrying the new INQ Cloud Touch and Cloud Q. A spokesperson said: ”3 is assessing the new INQ Cloud Touch and Cloud Q for possible inclusion in the 3 handset range this year, as part of its ongoing assessment of all new devices available to the marketplace.

“However, 3 currently has no plans to launch either device at this time.”

It will be interesting to see what plans and theories will emerge from Barcelona this year, but my money is on a collective effort by social networks and mobile manufacturers to bring social media to the masses.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years