Facebook might finally be putting to rest years of reports suggesting the company is making its own smartphone. On Thursday, Facebook invited members of the press to attend a media event at its Silicon Valley headquarters. The invite said, “Come see our new home on Android.”
One of the most prominent reports about Facebook’s smartphone ambitions over the years is that the company would base its own device on Google’s Android operating system. The invitation more or less confirms Facebook’s interest in Android, but don’t be fooled into thinking Facebook is going to make its own phone. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has denied Facebook’s interest in hardware time and again.
Facebook already offers dedicated mobile applications for the Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone platforms. This new effort will see Facebook more tightly integrated with the user interface of Android devices, and might even replace the usual Android home screen with its own. The idea is to get people onto Facebook as soon as they turn their phones on by making Facebook’s Newsfeed and other features a part of the home screen experience. As it stands now, users have to open individual Facebook apps on their devices.
Facebook is working closely with HTC on this first device, according to anonymous sources cited by The Wall Street Journal, though other manufacturers are on deck, too. It makes sense that HTC would be Facebook’s first partner in this venture. In 2011, HTC released the Status, a QWERTY-equipped Android smartphone that had a dedicated Facebook button. Using the Facebook button made it easy for Status owners to share content such as pictures, video, Web links, and so on, directly to the social network. The Journal did not say which other manufacturers are lined up behind HTC, but surely Samsung, the world’s biggest smartphone supplier, is in the mix.
Whatever Facebook introduces on April 4, it won’t be limited to just HTC devices. In fact, the new Facebook Android front, which sounds more like a user interface skin than an actual app, will be made available to all Android devices eventually. It will require Android smartphone manufacturers to make some significant software tweaks, allowing Facebook to take over the home screen. Sometimes this is referred to as a “launcher.”
Why the sudden desire to “put Facebook first,” as the Journal’s source claimed? Ad revenue.
Facebook has made no secret about its wish to expand and grow mobile usage. The more time people spend using the social network on their mobile devices, the more chances Facebook has to serve ads and make money.
As the world’s most prominent smartphone platform, Android is more open to the sorts of adjustments Facebook wants to make to its mobile application and services.
The press conference is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. Pacific Time on Thursday, April 4.