After scrapping phone business, INQ pivots into app maker
LAS VEGAS--INQ launched in 2008 with the goal of selling "boutique" phones to users in a variety of international markets. At its height, INQ sold what was known as the "Facebook phone" and counted a total of 1.5 million phone shipments, including a few hundred thousand Android smartphones.
But 15 months ago, the company decided to pivot.
"We just simply did not have the economy of scale to compete with the likes of Samsung," explained CEO and co-founder Ken Johnstone.
INQ decided to stop making phones (it still supports the phones it sold) and instead focus on its software efforts. After all, "we had been using the hardware as a channel to market for the software," said Johnstone.
The result of INQ's remarkable transformation from a smartphone maker to an app company is Material, the company's first major product since ditching its phone business more than a year ago. Material is an app that can comb through a user's Facebook and Twitter account to discover interests and hobbies, and then it can create a feed of news articles based on those findings.
"It's super simple," explained Johnstone. "We create this personal magazine for you."
Johnstone said a beta version of Material will be available in the Android app store in a few weeks, and in a few months will also be sold through Apple's iOS store. Johnstone said the company will offer the app free of charge and will work first to generate a significant user base before the company attempts to make money from the service. Johnstone declined to discuss how INQ plans to make money.
Johnstone acknowledged that there are a number of apps that offer similar services, including Flipboard and Pulse. He said Material is different because it requires no setup beyond a Facebook or Twitter account and because the app provides unique content to each user.
INQ currently counts around 45 employees and is based in London. The company is a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa.
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