July 29, 2014

Is a "Facebook Phone" Happening?

Depending on who you believe, Facebook either is or isn’t working on a phone of their own.  TechCrunch is reporting that Facebook is creating the software platform which will be integrated into hardware that is being designed by a third party.  Further, TC dropped a pair of names that are said to be involved in a secret project that many Facebook employees are unaware of.

Silicon Alley Insider has added to the discussion, saying the phone is being designed with Android as the foundation.  As the writer, Dan Frommer, points out, a handful of recent tweets by Facebook engineer Joe Hewitt could perhaps be considered as clues that the social networking giant is working with Android on a deeper level.  It’s always fun to read tea leaves and tweets certainly make for rumor fodder.  

Facebook has reacted to the the recent hubbub saying that they are merely working to make phones more social and offer deeper integration.  They point to examples such as INQ and their handset, already nicknamed the Facebook Phone.  Calling the TechCrunch article inaccurate, they throw water on the report.

“The story, which originated in TechCrunch, is not accurate. Facebook is not building a phone. Our approach has always been to make phones and apps more social. Current projects include everything from an HTML5 version of the site to apps on major platforms to full Connect support with SDKs to deeper integrations with some manufacturers.  Our view is that almost all experiences would be better if they were social, so integrating deeply into existing platforms and operating systems is a good way to enable this. For an example, check out Connect for iPhone and the integration we have with contact syncing through our iPhone app.  Another example is the INQ1 phone with Facebook integration (the first so-called ‘Facebook Phone’). The people mentioned in the story are working on these projects. The bottom line is that whenever we work on a deep integration, people want to call it a ‘Facebook Phone’ because that’s such an attractive soundbite, but building phones is just not what we do.”

Let’s not forget that Facebook snagged a former Google/Android guy earlier this year.  Perhaps he is helping with the no-longer-secret project?  Then again, maybe he’s only helping to design the Android application.  I like the idea of a middle ground answer: deep Facebook integration within Android.