You can call them Facebook phones or two of several Facebook phones, but don’t call them friendless, because INQ Mobile’s new Android devices already have a couple distributor “friends” in the U.K.
The INQ Cloud Touch will be available starting in April, and the Cloud Q will be available in the third quarter at The Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy. No word yet on U.S. distribution.
INQ also has friends at Facebook who helped them develop the devices. INQ co-founder Ken Johnstone says INQ worked closely with the Facebook team to make sure they were emulating Facebook’s values. As Facebook adds new features to its mobile platform, INQ can update its engine accordingly and make sure customers get the new stuff right away.
“We’re trying to take a very different approach to be a pure Facebook experience,” he says, adding that the company decided not to cram every social network on the phone because that results in a bad user experience – too much noise that ultimately makes users want to turn away. “We tried to take the approach that less is more.”
The main demographic INQ is targeting is 18- to 28-year-olds, and while the new Android devices technically are smartphones, INQ has been trying to promote a new category of devices, one that’s affordable to the target demographic and allows them to store media in the cloud rather than requiring big memory on the phone.
INQ, whose parent company is Hutchison Whampoa, focused on social networking and Facebook early in its history. But its earlier devices were on a lighter platform that didn’t allow the kind of integration they’re doing now.
The phones are the first mobiles to use the Facebook social graph API, which is designed to make it easy for people to follow updates from the friends they interact with most. There’s a home screen Visual Media Feed for video, pictures, Web pages and newsfeed. One-touch links take you to Facebook Chat, Friends, Messages, Wall and Notifications. Facebook Single Sign On is activated across the phones and people can check in to their favorite shops, restaurants and clubs with Facebook Places, also active on the home screen. Facebook Events fully integrates with the Google Calendar on both devices.
The default music player on the INQ Cloud Touch and INQ Cloud Q is Spotify, and all Spotify features are available to subscribers through a dedicated Spotify key.
In a press release, Henri Moissinac, head of Mobile Business for Facebook said: “The INQ Cloud Touch and INQ Cloud Q bring Facebook to people with a single touch while they are mobile and demonstrate the power of socially aware devices. INQ has built an innovative and easy to use set of features that enable people to use common Facebook interactions such as viewing photos and videos, chat, message and check-in to their favorite businesses all from the home screen.”
The INQ Cloud Touch is a 3.5-inch HGVA, Android 2.2 touch device, and the INQ Cloud Q is a 2.6-inch Android 2.2 touch qwerty. The Touch will be free on a 20 Euro/month plan.
INQ will be showing off the devices at its stand at Mobile World Congress next week, but guests will need an appointment to see them. Otherwise, the first device, the Touch, should hit the U.K. through Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy starting in April. INQ is in talks with U.S. carriers to bring a device here, but it’s not ready to announce anything.