After years of considering how to best get into the phone business, Facebook has tapped Taiwanese cellphone maker HTC to build a smartphone that has the social network integrated at the core of its being.
Code-named “Buffy,” after the television vampire slayer, the phone is planned to run on a modified version of Android that Facebook has tweaked heavily to deeply integrate its services, as well as to support HTML5 as a platform for applications, according to sources familiar with the project.
Rumored for years, the Facebook Phone appears to be materializing.
I'd argue Facebook plays an important role in the mobile world, but a phone seems ill-advised. Given the privacy concerns inherent within Facebook's structure, many will be hesitant to jump onto a dedicated Facebook mobile platform. Furthermore, the OS is being built upon an unspecified strain of Android, and thus might create further confusion in the Android phone market.
Amazon and Barnes & Noble have both shown it is possible to deviate, but their devices are not aimed to be cutting-edge, always-connected devices. They consume content from their respective ecosystems, and little more. As a result, the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet do not need the latest version of Android to succeed. A Facebook Phone, on the other hand, may need to remain comparable, competitive, and in tune with the latest Android updates -- not an easy task.
Facebook certainly has the clout to take a good stab at it, but with such privacy concerns, and a long history of unstable mobile apps? I'm not certain any Facebook Phone would find any widespread success.
Let's not forget that dedicated social media phones have existed before, and all of them have quickly died after being pushed into the marketplace.
Facebook, in its entirety, is available on most (if not all) mobile platforms. Importantly, it is not the only social media app for most mobile users. On a Facebook Phone, would Twitter be excluded? Would someone be able to check their LinkedIn inbox? Would native email be limited to your Facebook Messages? Would your address book become publicly synced with your Facebook account? Moreover, does HTML5 really provide the stability and feature-parity of a native app? What app store would Facebook access, if they chose to access one?
The more you think about the possibilities, and the more you consider the nature of Facebook in recent years, the more any Facebook Phone seems to be potential for a tangibly intrusive, annoying, and indecisive device.
Of course, they're welcome to prove me wrong.
This is only the first in an apparent "series" on the Facebook Phone for AllThingsD. It will be interesting to see what else is revealed.