Newcomer INQ scores with GSMA award win

INQ, the handset vendor focused on social networking, is bullish on the prospects for its first handset, the INQ1, which won the best mobile handset award Tuesday night at the GSMA Awards at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. 

The company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa, has been selling the phone in the United Kingdom for over 10 weeks under the mobile operator 3. The device is also available in Australia and Ireland, said Jeff Taylor, INQ's marketing and strategy director. The phone sells for $112 on a prepaid plan or for free with a $22 per-month plan.  

Taylor and the rest of the INQ team at the awards gala roared when INQ1 was deemed the winner of the best mobile handset award. This award is considered the second most prestigious at the event after the GSMA Chairman's award. The phone beat out the T-Mobile G1, Research In Motion's BlackBerry Storm, the LG KS360 and the Nokia E71.

"We're blown away," said Taylor, who is also one of INQ's founders. He said the win confirmed that the GSMA and the wireless industry recognize that the future of phones is not just smartphones. Taylor said INQ is a "carrier-friendly device manufacturer," and that the aim of the company is to provide the mass market with a phone that is directly connected to the Internet.

The HSDPA slider phone, which has a 3.2 megapixel camera and 2.2-inch QVGA display, features a suite of social networking applications including Facebook, Skype, Windows Live Messenger and Last FM. Users sign into the services once and then are always connected. In addition, the user's contact list is linked directly to the services.   

The phone will launch in Hong Kong, Italy and other Hutchison markets in the next few weeks and in other markets in the coming months, including the United States. Taylor did not disclose which U.S. carriers INQ is talking to, but said that the company was in "advanced negotiations" with both Tier 1 and smaller carriers.

"We've been in the industry for enough time to know we're on the right track" he said, adding that the expansion would be incremental. He also said that the social networking suite, which could have new services added, will be able to be modified by operators depending upon regional preferences.

For more:
- see this release
- see these photos of the INQ1 phone

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