3 has launched what it claims is the "world's most advanced social networking phone" at an event in London on Thursday morning.

The phone, made by Amoi will no doubt replace the company's S2 Skypephone, will allow users to stay "connected to their digital life" at an affordable price.

Created by INQ mobile, the new mobile software platform has been developed in connection with 3 and is designed to make social networking on the go incredibly simple and cheap.

Criticising the mobile phone industry for forgetting its core roots, INQ CEO Frank Meehan said he believed the INQ1 phone will become the new cheaper answer to the iPhone and other expensive smartphones.

Exclusive to 3 (for now), the handset will offer Skype, Facebook, Windows Live Messenger and Last.fm access on the go with status updates and information automatically pushed to the phone so you can still access it when you're without a network connection.

The Facebook experience on the INQ promises to provide one-click access and live updates pushed direct to the front screen of the device, as well as the first ever real-time interactive "live contact book", with friends’ online status and Facebook profile pictures displayed against their contact details.

Skype, Windows Live Messenger and Last.fm are all integrated into the heart of the phone and a host of other social utilities can be customised by the user, allowing RSS feeds, free Skype-to-Skype calling and unlimited free instant messenger capabilities.

The phone will also offer Yahoo Widgets allowing users to add further customisations to the phone.

Although not available for launch, the company plans to add an eBay tool to allow people to bid on the go.

The slider designed phone will come with a 3.2-megapixel camera, HSDPA connection and feature an accelerometer so you can automatically switch between portrait and landscape modes, however won't offer GPS. Sporting a standard mobile phone keypad, the company has confirmed a QWERTY keypad version will be available in 2009.

INQ1, as it will be called, will be available free on a contract tariff from £15 per month offering unlimited free Facebook, Skype, Windows Live Messenger and web access, plus 75 minutes of calls to other networks, unlimited texts, unlimited email and unlimited free 3-to-3 calls. £20 will get you all of the above but with 200 minutes of calls to other networks. INQ1 will also be available on PAYG at £79.99 with internet packages available from £5 per month.

In related news Microsoft has unveiled of its latest iteration of its Windows Live service.