Why would you want to buy a “Facebook phone,” if—as is widely rumored—one is under development?
Here’s why: if social networking is already the center of your online activity, a Facebook smart phone might be far easier to use. If a fraction of Facebook’s 800 million users were to make the switch, they would represent a powerful market force.
The phone project was revealed in reports last week that said Facebook had forged a partnership with handset maker HTC and was planning to use a version of the Android operating system, which will be tweaked to integrate Facebook deeply into its services and will support HTML5 as a platform for mobile games and apps. The reports said the phone could take 12 to 18 months to reach market. Facebook is saying nothing about the project; a spokesman said the company would not comment on “rumor and speculation.”
Already, Facebook’s are among the most popular apps on most smart phones. The company says that its apps on different platforms have 350 million active mobile users. The problem Facebook confronts is that its product is not very deeply “integrated,” in industry parlance, into the devices that people use socially every day to e-mail, send photos, and keep in touch with friends. It’s just one of many apps people use.
For example, on an iPhone, if you open a Web page and click on the menu, you have the option of tweeting the link but not of sharing it on Facebook. That’s because Twitter got itself integrated, and Facebook, for whatever reason, did not. On some Android phones, Facebook is integrated in this way, but it could be even better integrated into the devices.
To use an iPhone to send a link to your Facebook friends, you need to take more steps to open and use the Facebook app. And much the same problem pertains to reporting your location, sending a photo, playing games, or engaging in any of a host of other activities.
But on a Facebook phone, such functions could be the default option. And people would find it easier to use Facebook itself—making Facebook an even more titanic Hoover of personal information than it already is.
Facebook could go even further by directing all communications—including voice and text messaging—through its platform. And it could use that same platform to deliver content, including music and video, to users.