The Facebook Phone Needs to Be Something Special


Some things never die. Like Symbian, or webOS. (Not that we want them to die, of course.) But some rumors are simply resilient, immune to resistance and debunking.

Take the elusive Facebook phone, for example. The first rumor of a Facebook phone surfaced in September 2010. Mere moments later, Facebook spokesperson Jaime Schopflin told CNET that TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington got the story wrong.

No less, the rumors carried on. And just a short time later, Mark Zuckerberg himself shot the rumors down at a Facebook mobile event in November 2010. Zuckerberg said, “Now I want to talk about some of the platform stuff we’re doing. There’s been this rumor that Facebook is going to build a phone. What a novel idea, but… no!”

Countless times since, rumors of a Facebook phone have resurfaced, only to be debunked and denied by the company.

To be fair, there have been two “Facebook phones to date, though Facebook has never officially endorsed them as such. Made by HTC, the ChaCha (Status here in the States) and Salsa came with a dedicated Facebook button on the face of the device, to the bottom right of the display. Both mid-range devices by nature, though, neither were wildly successful. In fact, they were released and quickly forgotten.

The HTC ChaCha and HTC Salsa came with dedicated Facebook share buttons.

Despite the limited success of HTC’s mid-range, social Android smartphones, the mixed reactions to the endless flow of Facebook phone rumors and Facebook constantly denying any part in making such a device, the rumors press on. In November 2012, Pocket-lint reported the Facebook phone would launch under the name Opera UL. And earlier this month, Unwired View reported Facebook and HTC would once again team up for a device named the HTC Myst.

After years of EXCLUSIVE: Facebook Phone reports, it’s hard not to grow jaded and skeptical. Not to mention, this is a Facebook phone, after all. There can only be so much excitement over a phone with the main prerogative of more tightly integrating me with high school “friends” that I never actually talk to or know anything about anymore.

Alas, Facebook appears to be done debunking rumors of their part in making a phone. Yesterday evening, the company sent out invitations to its event on Thursday, April 4 at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California. We are invited to, “Come See Our New Home on Android”. And, boy if that doesn’t raise a few brows!

Admittedly, I have no interest in ever owning a Facebook phone. I basically use the service as a time waster and to stay in touch with distant family. (If it weren’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t have immediately known of the birth of my new niece this week in Alaska, or any of my nieces and nephews, for that matter.) Twitter and Google+ are my main networks, so, naturally, my interests are not piqued by the premise of a Facebook-branded phone … or whatever the company has up its sleeve. But it’s hard not to get excited over the idea that these darned Facebook phone rumors will finally come to an end, and there is a chance – albeit very small – that the company has something impressive and unique to show of on Thursday.

Facebook sent out invitations to its Android event, scheduled for April 4, 2013.

Granted, I am apparently the minority. Nearly one-seventh of world’s population are monthly active users (MAUs) of Facebook. And I’m willing to bet a lot of those MAUs would love to have Facebook more closely integrated with their lives and their mobile devices.

Lest we forget, however, the elephant in the room. If, in fact, Facebook is planning to announce the official Facebook phone, it will not be the very first of its kind. Although the ChaCha and Salsa were not directly considered Facebook phones, they were more adept to seamlessly sharing to Facebook than any other phones to date. And they were nothing spectacular, nor notably popular among any crowd.

We can’t deny that there is a key demographic out there that would swoon over something that would make sharing mirror pics and someecards to Facebook easier. What would it take for a Facebook phone to be successful, though?

The problem with the Salsa and ChaCha was that they were little more than basic Android phones with a Facebook button. A true Facebook phone warrants a custom interface of its own, not Sense 5 with a special Facebook widget. Possibly a blue-themed interface with a Facebook-specific BlinkFeed as the home screen. One page could be dedicated to Facebook Messenger. Another to synced Facebook photos.

If you think back to May 2012, you may also recall that Facebook reportedly wanted to purchase the popular Opera browser. Nothing more came of that report, but there’s reason to believe the company may have decided to save itself some cash and the hassle of another purchase and simply build its own browser. Maybe we’ll see that come to fruition.

Either way, the specifications, according to rumors, will certainly not sell the device. The HTC Myst as having a 4.3-inch 720p display (roughly 341ppi), 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8960 processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB storage, a 5-megapixel rear camera with a 1.5-megapixel front-facing shooter, LTE and HSPA support and Android Jelly Bean (4.1.2). So if the Facebook is as imminent as the invitation alludes, the device itself will warrant a host of unique features you couldn’t get on any other Android phone – a dedicated software button to allow sharing from any application or Web site (even though that’s already possible via the Share button), a unique interface, a Facebook browser, Facebook perks (a special Timeline or uncompressed photo uploads) or have an exclusive mobile application with a broader set of features than the standard Android app.

One way or another, if this Facebook is the HTC Salsa part deux, it’s as good as obsolete already.

Tell me, readers. Would you buy a Facebook phone? Better yet, what would it take for you to cough up the cash for a Facebook-branded smartphone?

Image via: Design Scene

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About The Author
Taylor Martin
Based out of Charlotte, NC, Taylor Martin started writing about technology in 2009 while working in wireless retail. He has used BlackBerry off and on for over seven years, Android for nearly four years, iOS for three years, and has experimented with both webOS and Windows Phone. Taylor has reviewed countless smartphones and tablets, and doesn't go anywhere without a couple gadgets in his pockets or "nerd bag." In his free time, Taylor enjoys playing disc golf with friends, rock climbing, and playing video games. He also enjoys the occasional hockey game, and would do unspeakable things for some salmon nigiri. For more on Taylor Martin, checkout his Pocketnow Insider edition. | Google+