The newly inaugurated handset design unit that emerged from the incubator of Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa this week, has shown off the first fruits of its labour.

Unfortunately, all we could get our hands on was an image of the forthcoming device. INQ Mobile has not yet confirmed any other info.

We know that the handset, reportedly called the INQ1, will be officially unveiled at a launch in London later this year. The first carrier will be Hutch’s UK 3G operation, 3 UK.

At a guess, the initial device will be manufactured by Chinese electronics firm Amoi, which also built the 3 Skypephone. The unit appears to be a slider form factor with a focus on a large-ish external screen size and hard keys. There’s no word yet on what the operating system is, but some form of Linux seems like a good bet.

But the software also has a homebrew feel to it, with the company revealing that it has spent two years, “creating a mobile phone platform that allows unprecedented levels of integration of applications into the places people are most familiar with – the idle screen, address book and messaging inbox.”

Hutch’s 3 Group already has agreements with Skype, Microsoft, Google, eBay, Yahoo, and Sling Media, giving it access to the cream of the web crowd and indicating the direction INQ is moving in.

INQ Mobile will be headed up by Frank Meehan, who was previously general manager of global handsets and applications for Hutchison, where he was responsible for procuring more than 9 million 3G devices each year.

Although the 3 Group will be one of the main carriers of these homegrown devices, INQ said it would also involve other carriers in a bid to drive down acquisition costs for operators.

Meehan said that the firm is creating a family of devices designed for the largest segment of the mobile market, those not served by expensive, high end smartphones. “All INQ devices are designed to stimulate mass market mobile data use, and feature a select set of geographically relevant social networking, email and instant messaging applications,” the company said.