The Facebook phone, including Skype and Windows Live - from 3 UK

by Guy J Kewney | posted on 13 November 2008

"What do most people want to do with the mobile Internet? Social networking. It's email, social networking, VoIP, IM and video sharing off YouTube. And most handsets won't do this." - Frank Meehan, CEO of 3 UK's tame handset maker, INQ, announcing what will become known as the FaceBook phone.

The demo, in London this morning, showed how a Facebook user can upload photographs, change status, browse Friends, and chat over Windows Live or Skype, and stay connected even if a call comes in.

The INQ 1 proposition is pretty simple: you can already do these amazing things with a mobile Internet device like an iPhone or Blackberry - if you can afford one. The Inq 1 is affordable.

If you're the typical phone owner, you can get a device you can afford, but it won't deliver the Mobile Internet to you, Meehan said. "There are three principles. If you get these right, then you really drive mobile internet usage into dramatic heights. First, affordable, transparent pricing; second, useful and relvant services. And we have got those right. It's the third one, usability, where we've failed."

Most mobile Internet users want to do the same things on their phones as they do on their PC, said Meehan - and the typical PC user spends most of their time on IM, email, and social networks. "But the handsets haven't delivered. They don't multitask, they aren't 'always on' and they're confusing, and users say they can't find the application after they downloaded it."

The iPhone and Blackberry have shown that if you get the UI right, you can drive mobile data usage into new areas. "The problem is that all those devices are pretty expensive; pretty high end, only available to the elite few, who can afford the high cost of ownership. And if you look at the handsets, they cost around $500 - which means they require high subsidies. And that means the operator can't have enough margin to give affordable tarrifs."

We should get back to our roots, said Meehan.

"Communications is what the mobile industry should be about. The industry has forgotten its core roots; to make communication easy. Operators are trying to take over music, take over the camera business. They've totally missed out on what has been the key driver – the Internet. Most packages are voice and text. Yet on the PC, you have email, social networking, VoIP."

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