3 to release INQ handset with massive Facebook integration

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3-inq-facebook-phone.jpgContinuing in 3’s long tradition of trying to shake up the established phone industry, the network is planning to launch a new phone next week called INQ. It builds on the direction that the Skypephone started, and features very close integration with social-networking behemoth Facebook.

Although info about the phone, has been floating around for a little while, we’ve got the official confirmation from 3 now, and they’re holding a press event next Thursday to announce the handset. It’s a not-particularly-pretty-looking slider phone, but where it really shines is in the software. Your Facebook contacts are your phonebook. Your SMS messages are Facebook messages. IM is handled over Facebook chat.

There’s also the close integration that we’ve already seen from 3 with Skype, as well as a Windows Messenger client, an eBay auctions tracker and a webkit-based browser. All this stuff’s been seen before on other phones, but none have tied it in so closely with the phone’s basic functionality call, contacts, and text functionality. As far as I can see, the only thing missing is some sort of Google Calendar application.

Similarly to the Skypephone, it’ll work as a USB modem dongle when you plug it in to your PC. The phone is likely to pop up on pay-as-you-go deals, and could be ideal as a low-cost phone for teens without much cash but who spend their lives on Facebook, or as a secondary phone for people already toting smartphones. It could retail at prices as low as £99.

The big question is going to be whether the hardware is up to scratch – this is obviously where 3 are making cuts, so don’t expect 3.5″ headphone jacks, 8 megapixel cameras or GPS. As long as the processor’s solid, though, and the device has a decent amount of memory, then this could be a fantastic low-on-cost, high-on-usability phone. I’m looking forward to getting the full lowdown next Thursday.

3 UK (with some info via Engadget)

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Duncan Geere