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Can an ex-phone maker really reinvent Facebook on the phone?

Can an ex-phone maker really reinvent Facebook on the phone?
Do social networks need to be simpler?

INQ, the brand behind the now-retired-but-super-connected Cloud Touch, has launched So.Ho as a new way of consuming social network updates.

Sitting on the homescreen of Android phones (running Ice Cream Sandwich or above) the free app allows you to look at your Twitter or Facebook feed in simple, block-based format rather than diving into the apps themselves.

This does strip away some key functionality, like seeing responses or searching hashtags, so users will have to decide whether avoiding diving into the apps for the ease of update viewing is worth it.

This is hardly a new concept; however the difference here is the app's ability to dive into links posted by friends or those you follow and pull richer content out – meaning Tweets will auto-populate with pictures and more information, rather than just a meaningless URL.

Ken Johnstone, CEO and founder of INQ Mobile, told TechRadar that the company was looking to bring more social networks into the fold – he said the company was focusing on the more visual-based services, meaning the likes of Pinterest or Instagram are being considered (among others).

Breaking old ground

Such feed apps aren't new for the phone, with the likes of Sony Ericsson's TimeScape feed combining users social network updates in one stream. However, these quickly become noisy and more of a hassle to view for users, meaning they were dispensed with in favour of dedicated apps.

Johnstone said INQ was aware of this flaw, which is why the two feeds (Facebook and Twitter) are kept separate within the app, but the company was intent on improving the 'discovery' element of So.Ho, giving it powers to discern the updates it thinks you'll be most interested in.

This would build on work from the firm's recent Material app, which pulls down content it thinks you'll be most interested in based on who you follow on Twitter and the links your Facebook friends post. This could also be included in So.Ho in the future to add functionality, Johnstone confirmed.


These content aggregators are growing in power it seems – taking the idea of the Live Tile from Windows Phone, which dispenses constant updates from disparate apps, and then moving onto elements like the HTC One's Blinkfeed, which fuses RSS feeds, pictures and social networks to give truly 'snackworthy' content for those that like to glance at the mobile phone and go.

Whether this smaller manufacturer can make inroads into a market that's also dominated by the likes of Flipboard, which is pre-installed on a number of Android devices, remains to be seen – but the smooth and clean interface at least promises to make digesting your social network feeds a little simpler.