Rumors about a Facebook phone have been swirling the Internet for years, and now the company is finally gearing up to make a mobile-related announcement in April. Earlier this week the social network invited press to an event at its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. on April 4 to “Come See Our New Home on Android,” reviving speculation that the company will launch a Facebook phone or custom version of Android.
While Zuckerberg insists that Facebook has no plans to make a smartphone, the rumor mill continues to churn harder than ever. Here’s a roundup of what to expect based on reports circulating the Web.
1. Facebook May Unveil a Modified Version of Android
On April 4, the company may reveal a modified version of Android with deep native Facebook integration, sources reportedly told Tech Crunch. An unidentified Facebook employee also reportedly confirmed these plans to The New York Times on Friday. This Facebook functionality would be built into the device’s home screen, and one source described the altered OS as a new “flavor” rather than a completely new Android version when speaking with Tech Crunch.
Facebook spokesperson Derick Mains declined comment to The New York Times, but did say the unveiling would be a "significant mobile-focused announcement."
2. Facebook’s Android May Run on HTC Handsets
Rumor has it that this alleged Facebook-heavy rendition of Android would run on HTC devices. A Facebook employee reportedly confirmed that this new software would debut on an HTC handset, but didn't specify any further details. It's also worth noting that while these features will debut on HTC smartphones, Facebook is reportedly in discussions with other manufacturers as well, a source familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.
The social network has reportedly been collaborating with HTC in recent weeks to brainstorm a marketing campaign for their joint product, according to 9to5Google. Sources familiar with the campaign’s development have allegedly said that advertisements for this rumored HTC/Facebook phone would be focused on the user experience rather than hardware or software, the website reports.
While this joint project remains unconfirmed, the idea of a “Facebook phone” from HTC certainly seems plausible. Back in 2011 HTC launched two phones, the Salsa and the Cha Cha, which both featured a dedicated Facebook button for quick access to the social network. Additionally, Bloomberg reported in July that Facebook is working with HTC to build a smartphone for release in mid-2013.
3. The Project Could Be Called ‘Facebook Home’
Rumors indicate that the collaboration could be called “Facebook Home,” which describes the home screen that would feature deep integration with the social network. This home screen would display Facebook news feed stories and would allow for easy access to Facebook apps, Tech Crunch also learned. Additionally, Facebook's own camera and messaging apps will be used as default applications for taking photos or sending messages, sources familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.
4. Rumored Specs Include 4.3-Inch Screen, 1.5-GHz CPU
Earlier this month specifications for the alleged “HTC Myst” made their way online, further fueling rumors of a “Facebook phone.” Unwired View reported that this unannounced HTC device would come with mid-range specs including a 1.5-GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and a 4.3-inch 720p HD display. It would also feature a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 1.6-megapixel front-facing camera.
There’s no indication that this phone would come with a Facebook button, but it is rumored to have preinstalled Facebook apps such as Facebook Messenger and Instagram. This would make sense given what the previously mentioned news outlets have learned about a Facebook-centric Android home screen.
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5. Facebook and HTC Allegedly Talking With Carriers
Sources have allegedly told 9to5Google that Facebook and HTC are already in discussion with “at least a couple” of global carriers, but didn’t specify further details.
The Bottom Line
Facebook’s next step into mobile may not be a traditional “Facebook Phone” per say, but rather a new Android skin with deep Facebook functionality. This could prove to be a viable move for the company as Facebook has expressed a desire to be more aggressive in the mobile space. In its 10-Q filing from October 2012, the company said it expects its rate of growth from mobile usage to “exceed the growth of usage through personal computers for the foreseeable future.” Considering that the average smartphone user checks Facebook 14 times a day, there's certainly a lot of demand for the service from mobile users.
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