11/19/2008 12:31:00 PM
INQ: manufacturers ignore social networking demand
INQ – a new manufacturer backed by 3’s parent company, Hutchison Whampoa – has released an £80 phone that is already being billed as ‘the Facebook phone’.
According to INQ, manufacturers are not producing cheap phones for younger customers interested in services like Facebook. The INQ 1 handset will focus on socialising and aims to make online networking as easy as voice and text.
The device will be available for free on tariffs from £15 (see pricing box below) and for £80 on prepay. INQ is attempting to strike a chord with a young generation of consumers that cannot afford phones priced within the iPhone bracket.
The manufacturer claimed it could fill the void for mass-market devices featuring data services. INQ says the phone was designed because too much emphasis is currently being placed on music and camera phones, and expensive high-end smartphones.
INQ was created as a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa, by former handset chief Frank Meehan (now INQ’s CEO), after the company created the Skypephone and realised that none of the established manufacturers were focusing on mass-market devices built around social networking.
3 CEO Kevin Russell said: ‘There is a core difference between where manufacturers are taking the products and where 3 wants to go. We’re not going niche or high end, or trying to milk money out of customers. We’re trying to grow.’
Russell reported a steep rise in demand for social networking sites from 3 users, with hits on Facebook from 3 devices doubling within six months, and reaching 44 million in October alone.
This compares with just two million Google searches that took place on 3 handsets in the same month.
Meehan agreed that manufacturers are neglecting the mass market.
He said: ‘The 85% to 95% of the market that can’t afford an iPhone or an expensive smartphone have been forgotten.’
3 customers say that user interfaces on handsets are generally not designed with a focus on internet-based services. The only successful devices along that line are high-end and only affordable to a small minority. Meehan added: ‘With digital camera and music phones, manufacturers are losing sight of communication.’
The INQ 1 device is planned for release in the run-up to Christmas, although an exact date is not yet known. A QWERTY keyboard version of the device is planned for next year.
What is INQ?
INQ is a standalone company wholly owned by Hutchinson Whampoa, 3’s parent company. The INQ 1 is the manufacturer’s first handset. The name is an abbreviation of the word ‘inquire’, and the branding was created by the same firm that devised the Orange and 3 brands.
The INQ 1 handset is available for free on £15-per-month contracts, which includes free Facebook, Skype, Windows Live Messenger and web access, plus 75 minutes of cross-network calls, unlimited texts, emails and calls to other 3 users.
The £20 monthly tariff will give you all this with 200 minutes of cross-network calls.
The device is available for £79.99 and internet packages are available from £5 per month.