Last spring, Facebook and HTC asked the world the question “are you interested in a smartphone that puts Facebook front and center as the core of your user experience?” The answer from consumers was almost a resounding “no,” and the HTC First failed in spectacular fashion. Even the Facebook Home software that could be deployed on existing Android phones stagnated, and despite claims from Facebook that the project is still active, you wouldn’t know it by the utter lack of public support. Is that it for Facebook’s big smartphone ambitions? Will it resign itself to being just another app? Maybe not, and a new patent suggests that Facebook still has a few ideas when it comes to phones.
The patent in question, filed back in March and published earlier this month, describes a manufacturing process for mobile devices, and the images used to illustrate the technique are pretty clearly of the smartphone variety.
With the First, HTC was the phone’s manufacturer, so this interest from Facebook itself in hardware is something new. But before we jump right to “Facebook’s making its own phone from scratch,” it’s important to remember that a patent is just an idea, not evidence that the patent holder intends to do something with that idea. As such, it’s probably premature to start talking about a Facebook-made smartphone. But has Facebook been at least thinking about phone manufacturing, if even in the abstract? That’s a much easier argument to make, given this new evidence.