Facebook Phone Rumor Surfaces Again (Like an Ugly Zit)

By Alexandra Burlacu | Apr 26, 2012 11:36 AM EDT

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Rumors that Facebook will roll out a phone have been circling for at least two years now, but such a device was never actually developed. The rumors, however, never stopped, and now there is speculation again about a Facebook phone, one that will allegedly arrive sometime this summer.

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Citing "industry sources," Taiwanese publication DigiTimes claims that Facebook is working with HTC to make a customized Facebook phone. DigiTimes has started many such rumors, citing mysterious sources, but their accuracy has often proved questionable. One thing they accurately predicted was the Kindle Fire, but their record with other products, such as Apple devices, is far less reliable.

"The new Android smartphone being developed by HTC will have a platform exclusive to Facebook to enable and integrate all functions available on the social networking site," DigiTimes reported. There are, however, several factors to be considered before rushing into believing such rumors.

HTC's Previous Attempts

First of all, HTC has already rolled out not one, but two handsets with Facebook integration. The HTC Salsa never made it into the U.S. and the HTC Chacha was sold in the U.S. by AT&T under the name HTC Status. Both phones were far from hits, and the Facebook customization simply meant a dedicated Facebook button for sharing and liking actions. In order for a "Facebook phone" to be a hit, HTC would have to find a way to differentiate their phone and app from all the other smartphones with the Facebook app installed.

What Makes a Phone a 'Facebook Phone?'

Facebook already seems to be expanding in the mobile market with its new versions of Facebook for Android, but deeper integration with contacts and apps on the phone doesn't really mean that much. Doing well with the Facebook app doesn't really turn a phone into a Facebook phone.

Presumably, a "Facebook phone" would have the social network as its primary interface, offering features from news and messages to music and games, basically everything that is now available via the Facebook Web site.

Others Have Tried and Failed

Moreover, as Information Week points out, British company INQ has sold Facebook-centered phones for years. Its initial feature phone used Facebook's developer tools to connect to the contact database and provide direct access to features such as posting comments, status updates and IM conversations. More phones followed, but they never managed to catch on. Now, after several attempts, INQ is "more or less defunct," as Information Week puts it.

Lastly, Facebook already offers great integration and rich applications that work well with both Android and iOS, the world's two most popular mobile platforms. What more could a Facebook phone bring into the game? Facebook already is everywhere, but it seems consumers expect their smartphones to excel at several tasks, not just one. Hence, the reason why Facebook phone rumor has surfaced again, like an ugly zit.

(reported by Alexandra Burlacu, edited by Dave Clark)


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