Ina Fried

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INQ Mobile Decides to Friend Facebook and Spotify for New Android Phone (Video)

It’s not the Facebook phone, but it is a phone with a whole lot of Facebook.

INQ Mobile on Wednesday is announcing its new Cloud line–Android phones that have Facebook features deeply integrated into their core as well as a dedicated music service from Spotify. The Cloud’s home screens feature a trove of Facebook options ranging from a visual news feed with images and video to one-button access to features like Facebook Chat and location-based check-ins.

“We want to do for the Facebook generation what BlackBerry did for the enterprise market,” INQ Mobile CEO Frank Meehan said in an interview in San Francisco last week. “For someone under 30 this is the stuff you want to see all the time.”

The Cloud line comes in two models–one with a keyboard and the other with a pure touchscreen. The bad news for you Americans (Mobilized is feeling very British here in London) is that the phone is coming to the U.K. in April, with no firm plans yet for when it might arrive stateside. INQ Mobile currently sells phones with Telus in Canada, but its devices are not yet sold in the U.S.

INQ Mobile made their announcement just ahead of Mobile World Congress, the cell phone industry’s big trade show which gets under way on Sunday in Barcelona.

There have been rumors of an INQ-built Facebook phone for some time–rumors that have been conflated with an official Facebook entry into the mobile market. HTC is also expected to debut a Facebook-heavy phone, though it has yet to announce its plans.

For its part, Facebook praised the INQ device.

Facebook mobile head Henri Moissinac said in a statement that the Cloud phones “bring Facebook to people with a single touch while they are mobile and demonstrate the power of socially aware devices.”

Although the selling point of the INQ Mobile phones are the connections to Facebook and Spotify, the Cloud line is pure Android. The Facebook features themselves are just elaborate home screen widgets tied to the social network, while Spotify replaces the default music player.

In doing so, INQ is looking to strike a balance between offering something unique while maintaining compatibility with Android.

“People haven’t had an emotional attachment to Android,” Meehan said, noting that users have such an affinity for the iPhone, and to some extent even the BlackBerry, or at least its messenger program.

The Cloud phones use a modest 600MHz processor from Qualcomm and feature version 2.2 of Android (a.k.a. Froyo), though the devices are designed to be upgradeable to the Gingerbread version. Meehan said that INQ is deliberately keeping the devices low-cost so they can sell for just a fraction of the iPhone’s price tag, making them attractive to a different segment of the market.

“We’ve taken very much a mass market approach,” Meehan said. “We’re going after the LGs, the Samsungs. We’re not going after people who are going for an iPhone.”

He also sees an opportunity to nab some BlackBerry Curve users.

“The Curve market is ripe,” Meehan said. “They have been sitting there with a terrible browser.”

There are also some family ties involved in the phone’s direction. INQ Mobile is owned by Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Whampoa, which, through a subsidiary, is also an investor in both Facebook and Spotify. INQ Mobile started in 2008 and has grown to more than 200 employees, said Meehan, who also is a member of Spotify’s board of directors.

As for when the company might bring the Cloud line (or any phones for that matter) to the U.S., Meehan said it could be as early as the second half of this year.

“Let’s see how it goes,” he said. “I’m not rushing into it.”

Of course, it might also help if Spotify launched in the U.S., something that always appears to be on the verge of happening “in the coming months.”


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald