3 targets mass market with 'Facebook phone' launch

Sometimes it pays to be on this side of the pond, especially if you’re a Facebook addict with a yen for mobile gadgetry and don’t mind switching to 3 if you’re not with them already. The network will be the exclusive carrier for the INQ¹, a Hutchison Whampoa handset launched in the UK only which integrates all the big social networking sites and services – Facebook, Skype, Windows Live Messenger and Last.fm – and also handily makes phone calls.

So far, so iPhone/G1/Storm. The killer USP may come in the price – 3 is firmly targeting the budget end of the mass market with a contract pricing plan that begins at £15 per month for unlimited web access and social media app usage, unlimited texts, email and 3-to-3 calls and 75 minutes of calls to other networks. The leap to the next rung up, which offers all that and 200 minutes to other networks, comes at a mere £5 more per month. The pay-as-you-go plans aren’t that much more expensive.

Already dubbed the Facebook phone, the INQ¹ is positioned as a ‘live contact book’, with friends’ online status and Facebook profile pictures displayed against their contact details. Early reviews suggest this phone will go a long way to helping newbs realise the potential of mobile social media networking.

The time’s probably ripe for this launch; 3 says it handles more than a million minutes of Skype-to-Skype calls every day and Mark Zuckerberg reckons more than 15 million Facebook users access the site through their mobile devices (though it’s not clear if this is a UK specific stat).

The phone is named INQ¹ to distinguish it from the manufacturing company INQ Mobile, referred to as INQ. The name’s also good for confusing people who actually do use superscript to indicate the presence of footnotes.