Monsters INQ for mobile web

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A global recession does not appear to be a good time for a new manufacturer brand to enter the crowded handset market. But INQ,  owned by 3 parent company Hutchison Whampoa, says, if anything, the economic climate plays into its hands.

Its service proposition captures latest consumer trends and its pocket-friendly price point appeals to both trade customers and punters.

INQ founder and chief executive and Frank Meehan (pictured) says: “The recession didn’t make us hesitant. It was spot on because network operators were desperate for handsets at a lower price point. The huge take-up of SIM only is telling. People have no reason to upgrade their handsets if there is no new and compelling reason for them to do so.”

The point is, reckons Meehan, there is little new value for manufacturers in megapixels and gigabytes anymore. The future for handsets lies instead in the internet and social networking – to the extent INQ claims its devices come under an entirely new category, ‘social mobile’.

The INQ1, its debut device, features Facebook, Skype, Windows Live Messenger and Last.fm embedded into its home screen and contacts. Twitter and eBay are to feature in upcoming releases.

“Manufacturers are hitting the wrong target with this megapixel race,” says Meehan. “People don’t need really high-specified cameras on a phone. They need email and the internet, and that is why RIM and Apple are doing so well.”

INQ co-founder and head of marketing and strategy Jeff Taylor elaborates. Whatever their consumer appeal, neither cameras nor MP3 players have much impact upon network revenues.

“You have this crazy situation where handsets cost the network more but do not deliver any extra revenue. Which means the network has to penalise the customer by charging more, with longer contracts, and higher upfront payments. INQ devices don’t kill a network’s costs and they encourage customers to take up data,” he says.

Of course, all handset manufacturers are embedding social networking applications such as Facebook onto handsets these days. Taylor argues, however, none entrench such services as deeply as INQ.

INQ runs a customised version of Qualcomm’s BREW operating system, and supports “tens of thousands” of Java mobile applications. Its parent, Hutchison Whampoa, of course has almost a dozen network interests across the globe and has also invested heavily in internet businesses.
“We have a lot of group experience with brands such as Skype and eBay,” explains Taylor.

“Other manufacturers may launch social networking handsets but the experience we offer is the result of working closely with Facebook for a year. When we launched the phone its founders endorsed it themselves. The degree of embedding is very complex. Others will get close, but we have a lot of insightful things in the pipeline.”

Full article in Mobile News issue 437 (April 20, 2009).

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