Best Handset Winner INQ1 to Launch in Four More Countries

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The handset that won the best phone award at the Mobile World Congress, the application-heavy INQ1, will launch in Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Hong Kong in about a month, according to the company.

"We have launched it in U.K. and Australia now, and in approximately a month we are launching in Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Hong Kong, all on the 3 networks," said Ken Johnstone, products and design director at INQ Mobile.

Both mobile operator 3 and INQ Mobile are backed by Hutchison Whampoa. INQ Mobile took the covers off the INQ1 last November.

It has two big advantages: a low price -- £79.99 (US$115) without subsidies in the U.K. -- and tight integration with Windows Live Messenger, Facebook, Skype and Last FM. It can, for example, collect a picture from a Facebook account, and then use it as a profile photo.

The device was born out of 3's Skypephone, which was developed after 3 spent about four years persuading big phone manufacturers to focus more on integrated Internet services but without success, Johnstone said.

Now those manufacturers are starting to come around. Nokia, for example, announced at the Mobile World Congress that it will put Skype on its devices, starting with Nokia Nseries.

Nokia's decision "is great for us, because we want Skype everywhere," said Johnstone.

But he had been expecting more announcements from manufacturers regarding tighter integration around Internet services.

"I don't know why they are moving so slow," Johnstone said. "It's a no-brainer."

INQ Mobile is currently also talking to operators outside of the 3 group, but isn't ready to announce anything yet, Johnstone said.

"We are engaging with a large number of carriers in North America, South America, Asia, Middle-East and Europe, so there is a lot happening," Johnstone said, adding he expects an announcement soon.

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