Is 3 sick of the mess the vast majority of companies continue to make of mobile phone UIs or is it just being plain innovative?
Whatever the reasoning, 3 has decided to follow the likes of Vodafone, Orange, O2 and T-Mobile in releasing its own brand handsets, but unlike the 'Big Four' networks they won't be simple rebrands (many of which were HTC originated hardware) but models it has designed from the ground up.
Conceived during the creation of the telco's successful 'Skypephone' line of handsets, the design and manufacturing company will be solidified, dubbed 'Inq' (pronounced 'ink', an abbreviation of 'inquire') and helmed by Frank Meehan, 3's former group handset boss. Inq will aim to produce 5-6 handsets over the next year with the first one due next month.
Rather than go head-to-head with the likes of the iPhone, N96, i8510, Bold, Storm, KC910, etc all Inq phones will be pitched at the PAYG sector and sit around the £50 to £80 bracket. They will focus on giving customers simple access to data services (3's biggest asset) and provide an integrated cross-platform IM client, email, Skype and social networking applications. Being made by 3 also means each will be equipped with fast 3G Internet access.
Now while such a move would usually force me to turn my scepticism filters to 11, I have to admit the price/performance propositions offered by the Skypephone line and - even more encouragingly - the thoughtful changes made between the original Skypephone and its super successor, the Skypephone S2, suggest some cause for optimism. Rather a lot, in fact.
So no pressure 3. Welcome to the game, Inq - see you next month...