Overseas mega-corp Hutchison, which owns the 3 network
, has a new handset subsidiary called INQ, which is going after the social-hungry youth market in a big way. INQ's first handset, the INQ1, doesn't look like anything special -- just a frumpy-looking slider with a decent screen -- but start poking around and you'll find a massive amount of software for such a dorky phone from a handset upstart. The big angle here is Facebook integration -- INQ has a Facebook app to rival Facebook's own work on the iPhone, and ties Facebook contacts, chat and messages into all parts of the phone. The phone enjoys similar integration with Skype (including making Skype calls free over the network, like 3's Skypephone
) and Windows Live Messenger. Other apps include an eBay tracker and a full-on WebKit browser. None of this is revolutionary, or even particularly polished, but the work INQ has done at integration, like a unified contact list, could do to be copied by even the major smartphone players. What is revolutionary is the price: INQ plans to sell primarily through pre-paid carriers, who are expected to retail the featurephone for under £99 without contract. The HSDPA phone, to be "officially announced" on October 13th, will hit the UK in November, and can apparently be flashed to work with US carriers -- with a launch planned for here next year. Oh, and the killer app? The phone doubles as a plug-and-play 3G modem. Yeah, US carriers are going to take real kindly to this one.