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New phone to feature Android plus Facebook

Rumors of a "Facebook phone" turned out to be exaggerated, but the forthcoming INQ Cloud Touch offers tight Facebook integration like a real-time News Feed.

British start-up INQ Mobile will be releasing a new phone that spices up the Android operating system with tight Facebook integration, according to a demo video taped by TechCrunch. Among the features of the new phone, called the INQ Cloud Touch, are four Facebook-related buttons on the home screen, Facebook friends integrated with contacts, and a prominently featured real-time News Feed of Facebook activity.

The phone is intended to be a mid-level device geared toward teenagers, meaning that it could be available for a rather low price--perhaps as low as $50--when purchased with a contract. The Cloud Touch will also be available overseas before it hits the U.S. market.

Rumors of a "Facebook phone" circulated last fall, causing some to believe that Facebook would developing, branding, and selling a device in the manner of Google's Nexus One, which was ultimately a failure. Facebook repeatedly denied that it was building a phone, but executives have said that the promises of the mobile world mean that you'll be seeing Facebook on both smartphones and lower-end devices far more.

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg explained last September that the company's strategy would be to work on getting Facebook synced up to many different kinds of mobile devices, and that it sometimes requires partnerships and deals. "We want to make Facebook available everywhere on every device," she said at the time. "That's actually complicated in a world of so many cell phones, so many mobile operators...even the screen size is different, so you have to work with the different devices [to develop apps]."

Making these mobile inroads is important as Facebook, which has more than 600 million active users around the world, works to expand in regions where it historically has not had a strong presence. In many of these regions, Internet access happens primarily on mobile devices rather than PCs. To that end, Facebook recently worked with mobile development firm Snaptu to build an app for lower-end cell phones that will be accessible free of data charges in a handful of overseas markets.