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Friday, October 17, 2008

INQ + BREW = Cheap Internet-phone?

In all the recent fuss about new smartphone OS's - Apple, Android, LiMo - and continued discussion around old favourites like Symbian, Windows Mobile & Blackberry - there's been one theme that's sort of disappeared....

... what exactly happened to all those mid-tier featurephone platforms from a few years ago? Some of them like TTPCom's Ajar got absorbed into larger companies (eg Motorola) and essentially disappeared. Other browser/messaging based platforms like OpenWave's MIDAS framework and Obigo's mobile platform haven't exactly set the world on fire either.

But one platform that has been ticking along is Qualcomm's BREW - which appears in various guises from a sort of Java-esque virtual machine for games, to a UI layer, to an almost-full OS on some Japanese phones.

It's reappeared again on what appears to be an Internet-centric featurephone from a new handset company called INQ, which has also been involved in 3's Skypephone device. In fact, INQ appears to be owned/controlled by Hutchison, and has a number of other inexpensive <$200 (wholesale) Internet-phones. There's a good interview with the CEO here.

This makes a lot of sense to me. Handsets like the iPhone are great for web access - but much too expensive for the average teenager on a $12 ARPU using prepay, who wants to check FaceBook 12 times a day through a decent interface. Many of the existing smartphones are too complex with dozens of useless apps and menus.

I see this as a way to move a huge tier of people away from today's Voice+SMS, towards Voice+SMS+Web. You don't need a smartphone for this - a well-engineered featurephone is perfectly adequate, and much cheaper. 

1 comment:

TTV said...

Re: INQ. Thanks for spotting our interview Dean. The INQ-1 is indeed a low-cost Facebook-centric featurephone; this was all we could show prior to the official launch in mid-November unfortunately. But to clarify what we know.... yes, INQ is 100% owned by Hutchison, but this is its first phone (more planned later, but nothing yet) and it didn't make the Skypephone of a couple of years back. INQ has built using BREW, but then layered its own OS on top. It also got the Facebook guys to help integrate the site into the phone's core library (including the address book). It's supposed to be $200 to operators, so a free PAYG handset to the kids? Depends I guess on the willingness of other operators (other than 3) to give decent PAYG data packages.

Guy Daniels, TelecomTV