A year ago, the team at Inq made an extremely tough decision. After spending years working on mobile hardware, including a “Facebook phone” of sorts, it decided to focus exclusively on mobile software.
Inq is likely best known for being the manufacturer of the so-called “Facebook phone” back in 2011. Eventually it became known that the phone would simply offer extensive social integration, not be an official Facebook-branded phone. Then early in 2012, Inq’s endeavors to build Android phones went completely bust.
Now, with its about-to-launch social news app Material, Inq can finally show what it’s been working on all this time.
“We’ve finished up with hardware a year ago, and we’ve been working our app engine since then,” Inq CEO and co-foudner Ken Johnstone told me last night at a CES 2013 event.
The 45-employee Inq team has been working hard on a “topic extraction engine” that powers Material’s back-end and will eventually power other Inq apps.
Like Flipboard, relatively new hot app Grokr, and other social news apps, Material recommends news everyday based on what’s happening in your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Your “interests” change every day based on your activity, but you can also make interests permanent. It also “learns with you” so if you a read a certain topic every day, it knows to make that more of a priority in your feed.
For example, if you follow a sports team on Facebook or Twitter, Material knows to give you important updates about that team. When the off-season hits and there’s way less news about that team, Material won’t give you updates on it unless there’s a huge development.
I was able to look at Material last night and it looks quite polished. My favorite aspect of the app was the design, which bursting with color and beautiful photos. Johnstone was previously the product and design director of Inq before he was elevated to CEO, so he said that background contributed to his decision to make design a priority.
“We liken this to the publishing world,” Johnstone said. “Focusing on design is so important for magazines, for example. We want the design to be well done and the barrier to entry low. It makes the app very easy to get into.”
Material will launch in the next few weeks on Android. Johnstone said it also land on the iPhone and iPad in the “next few months.” We will take a closer look at the app once it becomes available to consumers.
Inq is a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa and was founded in 2008.
Check out more photos of Material below.
Filed under: VentureBeat
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