INQ, a company that’s a small division of the huge global operator Hutchison, builds feature phones with smartphone features deeply integrated. Last year they launched several devices in the UK that had Facebook, Twitter, MSN and even Skype built in. They were cheap, but the user interface was playful and indeed easy to use. Now Bloomberg is reporting that the company is working on a pair of smartphones, operating system unknown, but we’re thinking Android, that feature deep integration of both Spotify and Android. They’re supposed to come out in Europe next Spring and in America, on AT&T, later in the summer.
You’ve got to wonder though, what exactly are they going to do with a smartphone OS that Facebook and Spotify can’t do themselves via applications? And if these devices feature such awesome integration with both services, then how should companies trying to build a social layer on top of Android feel about this? HTC pours a lot of money into Sense to make it social networking friendly, and Nokia bought up several small companies and even build their own social clients in house, so that people can more easily tweet, poke, check-in, or whatever the hell it is you kids are doing these days.
The pricing is what will set these devices apart. Remember Microsoft’s Kin? It was a feature phone priced as a smartphone and people scoffed at being asked to cough up that much dough. If AT&T doesn’t try to nickel and dime consumers, then INQ might have a chance at the American market. I just want to see how their software works, and count the days until everyone else clones what they’ve done. Mobile World Congress is coming up in a little over 4 months. There’s a high probability that these devices will be announced at the show, which means we’ll get hands on pictures, video and first impressions.