Facebook Phone concept (credit: Yanko Design)
In the face of a wave companies making moves on the mobile phone market, Facebook seems to be the last hold out. Other high-profile companies have been carving out chunks of the smartphone market, since Apple reinvigorated the idea of the smartphone when the iPhone came out. Google has been successful with Android, which is now the most popular OS for mobile phones. And Microsoft has its own bet with Windows Phone 8. Heck, even RIM is trying to stave off extinction with its upcoming release of BlackBerry 10. In view of other companies’ offerings, the only thing Facebook has is an invite to a possible announcement of the Facebook phone.
So far, rumors of the supposed Facebook phone have come and gone. It is already approaching mythical proportions. There was a rumor last year that HTC was developing a phone for Facebook. So far this year, Facebook has sent an invite to journalists to an event at their headquarters. Without any clue, the only possible thing that Facebook might show is their own branded mobile phone.
It might not be true, and the announcement might be for something else altogether. It might even be a total revision of Facebook that they want to show to journalists. Or it could be true, but not what everyone else thinks a Facebook phone might be.
There are several possibilities that Facebook might come up with in the smartphone market. One of them would be its own mobile OS, similar to Android or iOS. It could be an integration of Facebook features and services and wrapped up neatly into the core of a smartphone. Much like Google, Facebook could leverage their 1 billion followers. An integrated Facebook phone could be to the social network users what Android is to Google — easy access to their own branded services.
It can also be like a Skype phone, such as a VoIP phone, which would be able to make calls to cell phones and landlines all over the world through the Internet. It can even be video chat capable. This could help solve their problem with their phone and messaging feature.
It can also be proof that the HTC deal may not be a lie after all, and that they might really have a Facebook phone in the works. With a big user-base, there is no reason why Facebook should not use the leverage this to monetize their services. It has been noted that Facebook has been great at finding users, but not been as successful at making money from them. However, if they monetize through phone payments, advertising and big data, then the company would have found the sweet spot for their business.
Why so secretive?
So far, the company has not given any indication of whether there are, indeed, any developments aimed a Facebook phone. A few things point to this possibility, though. Facebook had been experimenting with Android for some time, and a rumored “Project Buffy” surfaced in 2011 that was supposedly led by chief technology officer Bret Taylor (who has since left the company). Another report claimed that Facebook was hiring ex-Apple engineers to help with the development of a smartphone.
Is the company doing an Apple in being so secretive in its product development? One thing is for sure, whether it’s a standalone Facebook phone, integrated mobile services, or other mobile-oriented business models, what is fairly obvious is that Facebook needs a bigger presence in mobile phones to better keep up with Apple, Google and Microsoft.
And if Facebook were to launch its own mobile OS, it will likely be a fork of Android, given the already-existing ecosystem of apps and developers. It would be better to build upon the most popular mobile OS, after all, rather than start from scratch or build on a dead or untested platform.
We’ll know for sure in just over 24 hours. We’ll be sure to keep you posted. For now, what do you think Facebook has in the works, and how do you think it should make an impact on the mobile ecosystem as a whole?