Fast Track To A Facebook Phone — Buy INQ Mobile?

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As the heat around the “Facebook Phone” story gets higher, our thoughts turn to the days a couple of years ago when it emerged Facebook had been thinking about developing an actual phone. Back then, it transpired that Facebook was working with INQ Mobile on a smartphone. The phone duly emerged – the INQ1 – and did indeed have great Facebook integration. Even if it hasn’t exactly been a smash hit, it’s fared well enough.

Indeed, HTC has also released their own “Facebook” phone, such HTC ChaCha and HTC Salsa respectively. INQ’s runs on Google’s Android operating system, but with deeper Facebook integration.

When asked about the INQ phone back in 2010, Zuckerberg said it wasn’t “some massive big thing”. But quite clearly, a phone is now firmly on the agenda.

And with Facebook bringing in $16 billion from its IPO it could in theory buy Research in Motion (around $6 billion) or the ailing HTC (around $11.8 billion).

However, an even cheaper option would be buy the aforementioned INQ from its holding company Hutchison Whampoa. Because it’s not the operating system Facebook needs – that can be developed – but the hardware engineering experience that INQ mobile has.

INQ is already spread across the UK, San Francisco, Europe and Asia.

And as a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa it has a lot of experience dealing with big software companies, creating the original Skypephone prior to the INQ1 and integrating Spotify and Foursquare into its handsets.

Admittedly, Facebook needs to make a phone that doesn’t suck. By grabbing INQ is might just have that chance.