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INQ-MWC-2011-11

INQ Mobile, the plucky British phone peddler, has had a turbulent year. After launching its first Android phone, the mid-range INQ Cloud Touch, to fairly positive reviews, the company was expected to launch a button-based follow up, the Cloud Q, in late 2011 in partnership with Carphone Warehouse, Best Buy and Vodafone. But it never did.

Now we can exclusively reveal that the company has scrapped the QWERTY smartphone, instead opting to focus on new hardware and software to be released later this year.

INQ has confirmed to Electricpig that the Cloud Q, a BlackBerry-like Android device with a 2.6-inch touchscreen and Android 2.2 “Froyo” that debuted at the Mobile World Congress expo last February, has been cancelled.

“After a lot of analysis through the back end of 2011 we made a tough decision to pull the Cloud Q from the INQ roadmap to focus efforts on our future products,” said a spokesperson for INQ, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hutchinson-Whampoa, which also owns the UK mobile network Three. The spokesperson declined to explain what led to the decision, but said that it was the “right one” to make.

INQ, which specialises in providing deep social networking integration in its devices, will instead focus on a future product, which it tells Electricpig will arrive in the second half of the year. The company does not plan to make any announcements at Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona next month, as it did last year.

What that device (or devices) might be remains unclear, though the long gestation period suggests the company is likely to be working on products running the latest version of Android, 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”, which was open-sourced in November. Whatever it is, the Wall Street Journal says it’s not an official Facebook phone: despite the two companies’ long-standing partnership, that honour has reportedly gone to HTC.

INQ's stand at Mobile World Congress

INQ has had a tough few months, with two of its co-founders, including former CEO Frank Meehan, leaving. And the company raised eyebrows last Autumn when it published its suite of visual Facebook apps and widgets for free on the Android Market for eight weeks, seemingly giving away its secret sauce for nothing.

But the Cloud Touch has now sold out in the UK (though it remains on sale in Canada, Australia and Italy), and the spokesperson says that this software trial was deliberately intended to gauge users’ reactions on a wide-scale.

“We really learned invaluable lessons both in terms of the excellent data we’ve gathered on user behaviour and also the qualitative feedback we received from real users,” she said. “It’s been great to have direct dialogue with our audience, and we have some excellent ideas and enhancements we’ll be bringing to future releases of our software.”

As part of this, INQ says it may conduct further trials via the Android Market, which could give us a clue as to what to expect from it later on this year. An Android tablet, perhaps? Time will tell.

(Image via montymetzger)

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