BARCELONAExecutives at INQ, which won the GSMA’s award for Best Mobile Handset or Device, weren’t always so keen on devices.

The INQ1

In fact, INQ in part was formed by operator Hutchison Whampoa for the very reason that Tier 1 handset providers were not delivering what the carrier executives wanted. INQ executives previously worked on the operator side before heading up the device unit.

The INQ1, which won the GSMA award over smartphones like the Nokia E71, T-Mobile G1, the RIM BlackBerry Storm and LG KS360, is a mass market device built with social networking in mind. It is an HSDPA handset that provides one-click access to apps like Facebook and Skype. The INQ1 also has a 3.2 MP camera that allows for photos to be directly uploaded to Facebook.

Seemingly every handset vendor and operator is trying to get deals with Facebook and other social networks. But INQ set out two years ago to design a phone with social networking at the heart. “You’re going to see Facebook phones all over the place,” INQ CEO Frank Meehan said earlier this week. “We know our … product is going to be so much better. We have to keep going forward.”

As the “1” signals, the INQ is just the first phone from the company. More devices are expected to debut this year.

INQ launched its first-generation device in November in the United Kingdom and Australia, with plans to debut in Hong Kong, Italy and Scandinavia this year. The company would like to be in the U.S. market, but realistically, that likely won’t happen before the end of the year or early next year, Meehan said.

The company says it is open to working with any network service provider. INQ executives explained that the device uses a Qualcomm chipset that can easily be switched out, so wouldn’t cost a lot extra to do CDMA.

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