3 claims INQ platform a roaring success

The operator-run handset shop incubated by Hutchison Whampoa is claiming a success from its low cost 3G handset strategy which uses social networking to encourage data usage.

INQ Mobile, which makes ‘social mobile’ devices for the 3 UK network, released figures this week which suggest that consumers are happy using social networking tools as well as mobile email and instant messaging (IM) on fairly low end devices.

3 UK says it has shifted about 700,000 handsets of the INQ1 variety and its predecessor, the Skypephone, since November 2007.

Of these users around 65 per cent, or 455,000, use Facebook – the main application pushed by the INQ1 – on an almost daily basis. Moreover, around 30 per cent of users are regularly using email, and this is on a slider form factor device with a standard non-QWERTY keypad.

Around half of INQ1 owners use Windows Live Messenger and around 19 per cent are regular users of Skype.

3 UK, which had a subscriber base of around 5 million at the end of March 2009, says that its strategy of close integration of applications and an easy to use interface means that consumers using an entry level handset, often on a prepay tariff, are keen to access data services at levels typically reserved for much more expensive smartphones. And for the operator this means higher margins and ARPU because it is paired with lower subsidy and network load costs.

The INQ1 is free on a contract basis at £15 per month, inclusive of unlimited data and 75 minutes, which can be upped to 300 minutes for an extra £5. On prepay, the handset costs £79.99 and a £10 per month top-up gets you unlimited data and £5 call and text credit.

The device is designed by INQ Mobile and built by Chinese electronics firm Amoi (which also built the 3 Skypephone) and packs HSDPA connectivity and a 3.2 megapixel camera into a slider form factor with a large-ish external screen size and hard keys.

3 reckons that its figures show that email can penetrate into the mass market, and not be restricted to high end, expensive smartphones.

“The iPhone and Blackberry are great devices, but it is important to remember that smartphones only make up 12 per cent of the market [according to Gartner]. We see a huge opportunity to provide an internet and social networking experience on a handset that costs operators a fraction of what they’re paying for higher end phones,” said Frank Meehan, CEO of INQ Mobile.

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