Facebook, not content to be one of the most used apps on mobile devices today, wants to build its own smartphone and has decided that HTC is just the company to do it for them. All Things D reported that after considering other manufacturers, including Samsung, Facebook chose HTC to build a phone that has deep integration of the social network.
Code named “Buffy,” after the vampire slayer of television fame, the Facebook phone would be more than just another smartphone with a Facebook app or button. The company is looking to deeply integrate its social network throughout the device.
Facebook sees mobile as critical to its future and smartphones as inherently social. A spokesperson for Facebook stated that “Our mobile strategy is simple: We think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social. We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers to bring powerful social experiences to more people around the world.” It works with 475 mobile operators globally to assure that it’s 350 million active users will have access to Facebook through mobile devices, if they so choose.
With Google and Apple being the other two large players in the smartphone market, each with a star social network (Apple is using Twitter and Google has Google+), it’s easy to understand why Facebook might want greater control of this platform.
The question is whether a device that focuses on a single service as its raison d’être is the way to do so. Facebook is a big deal to hundreds of millions of people, but will it be a big enough deal to get people to want to carry the 2012 equivalent of a 1970’s cartoon lunch box? The appeal of general smartphones like Android devices and iPhones has been broad Internet connectivity, but Facebook appears to believe it can sell a device predicated mostly on its own popularity.
The success of this idea is likely to hinge on how the company implements such a device. Like Amazon did with the Kindle Fire, the Facebook phone will use a variant of the Android operating system that Facebook has taken and forked off from the main Android development tree. The company will also heavily integrate support for HTML5 into the device as the means of delivering mobile apps on the device.
How it all comes together simply remains to be seen. The device is still at least 12 to 18 months out from appearing on the market, so there is still little known about what the final product will look like.
Bryan Chaffin contributed to this article.