Hutchison Whampoa’s mobile handset subsidiary INQ Mobile today unveiled two new low-cost devices, both of which incorporate Twitter and are aimed at bringing mobile social networking to the mass market. The INQ Chat 3G is the company’s first Qwerty phone and includes free push Gmail. The INQ Mini 3G is a slimline device and billed as “an entry-level social mobile ideal for the price-sensitive market.” Both phones feature ‘always-on’ Internet-based Twitter, Facebook, Skype and IM clients and have plug-and-play HSPA modems. In addition to these features, the new phones will allow users to sync their phones with their iTunes or Windows music players through a deal with San Francisco-based startup doubleTwist. This is an interesting development in light of Apple’s efforts last month to shut out rival handset manufacturer Palm after its Pre handset was able to sync with iTunes. The two devices will be launched in the UK in 4Q09 this year, exclusively by Hutchison’s 3 UK, according to reports. A further five 3 markets will launch the device this year, with a US launch pegged for 2010. Whilst the cheapest iPhone costs US$99 in the US, Reuters notes that INQ says its devices are inexpensive enough that people could expect them to be offered free or sold for less than US$25 to customers who commit to a contract.
INQ Mobile’s latest handsets follow the launch of its multiple award-winning INQ1 – known as the ‘Facebook phone’ – at the end of last year. The INQ1 was touted as “the world’s first ‘social mobile’ to integrate email, IM and social networking in an intuitive way” and featured an integrated Facebook client. In May, the vendor released statistics claiming that an average of 65 percent of INQ1 customers are using Facebook, with the majority of users accessing once a day or more. Although it is not known exactly how many ‘Facebook phones’ have been sold to date, INQ said at the end of May it had sold 700,000 devices since November 2007, a figure which includes the INQ1 and the separate ‘Skypephone’ offered by 3 that features an inbuilt mobile VoIP client. “We build phones that focus specifically on what people want to do most on mobile, and deliver it at a price point that’s easy for consumers and profitable for operators,” said INQ’s CEO Frank Meehan in a statement today. “We have completely broken the vice grip hold that high-end smartphones had on great mobile Internet experiences, and made them available to everybody.”