Just don’t call it the F-phone
A new low cost cellphone that puts Facebook and other social applications at its center will debut next week on Hutchinson-owned 3 in the UK and Australia, according to Unstrung. The new handset has been designed by another Hutchinson subsidiary, INQ Mobile, and is the first of a number of “low cost social mobile” offerings in the pipeline.
Apart from a dedicated Facebook client the device will also include applications for Skype, email and IM.
INQ Mobile’s CEO, Frank Meehan, told Unstrung that the company’s goal is to build cheaper 3G phones — two to three times less that the average smartphone — in order to persuade more consumers to start using mobile data.
“For 85 percent of our customers, we can’t really sell more than voice and text,” he says. “You need to drive data usage higher right across all the handset segments. You want the majority of customers, not the top-end of the community that rules strategy at the moment.”
Meehan says that with regards to Facebook integration, INQ worked closely with the social networking company in order to offer better integration than is available on existing handsets. Unlike the iPhone, for example, INQ’s Facebook application runs in the background so that users can automatically receive updates from their Facebook friends. “So Facebook becomes like SMS and can be used in the same way as SMS,” says Meehan.
Interestingly, before heading up INQ, Meehan was involved in the development of the first dedicated Skype mobile phone, also sold through 3, which we enthusiastically reported on just over a year ago.