Jan 26, 2011

Facebook Phone Coming...True or False?


HTC is slated to unveil not one but two Facebook phones in February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, according to City AM, a UK news site. They will be "high-end smart phones," running Android with Facebook "branding and colors," says the site. Their purpose will be to make life easier for Facebook addicts by featuring Facebook messages on the home screen, and integrating calling and e-mailing using Facebook friend info.
Let's see, an Android phone that features Facebook messages on the home screen, and uses Facebook to get friends' contact info? Isn't that, like, every Android phone? Truth is, Facebook's mobile strategy is so good these days, pretty much any phone in your pocket is a Facebook phone, even dumb ones. So what gives?
My guess would be that it's got to do with apps and games. Facebook is making bank hosting the masterworks of Zynga ("FarmVille," "CityVille") and Playdom ("Social City"), and is getting cozy with traditional publishers like EA and Popcap. Why let Apple and Google reap the mobile gaming spoils?
City AM's rationalization is a little more vague: "Facebook has aggressively pushed mobile versions of its social network," says the site, "and industry insiders see this as an attempt to consolidate its position as the world’s leading social network."
OK, so how much stock do we put in this rumor? On one hand, the most realistic Facebook phone rumors surround devices that would be released in Europe and Asia (but possibly not in the United States), and this does follow in the same groove. And HTC would be a great candidate for a Facebook vanity phone, especially based on the Android operating system, which they've worked intimately with since the beginning.
City AM's reporter may have reported on the existence of the second Google Nexus phone, asMashable points out. But in this piece, he misidentifies HTC as the manufacturer of it. (Correct answer: Samsung.) So really, when it comes to credibility, they're kind of a mixed bag.
We've reached out to HTC and Facebook for comment, and have yet to hear back.
UPDATED at 3:39 p.m. ET: A Facebook spokesperson replied to our inquiry, sharing a tantalizing non-denial that sounds awfully familiar:
"Facebook is not building a mobile phone. As we've long said our mobile strategy is to enable people to not only have access, but also a great Facebook experience from any mobile phone they choose. We're working across the entire mobile industry with operators, hardware manufactures and app developers to bring Facebook to mobile phones in a variety of unique and exciting ways. Some of these include deep integrations of Facebook within the device, but are not 'a Facebook phone' as they sometimes are referred to by commenters."

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