Facebook Android Event Redials Social Phone Conversation

by Matt Klassen on April 1, 2013

Its one of those rumours that just won’t die, as for years the tech blogosphere has been awash in speculation that Facebook will unveil a branded smartphone with a modified Android OS sporting deep social integration. Over those years the rumour dance has always been the same: media reports, Facebook denies, reports, denies…rinse and repeat.

Now just two months after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went on record categorically denying that his social network was looking to enter the mobile market, Facebook is inviting the media to an event on April 4th, with a cryptic Apple-esque teaser line, “Come See Our New Home on Android,” sparking a renewed cycle of speculation that this time, finally, we’ll see the long awaited Facebook phone.

But hold the phone (I couldn’t help myself), we’ve seen this sort of scenario before, and there’s little evidence that this event will provide anything more than a Facebook upgrade on Android. In fact, the New York Times is reporting that the only thing we might see is a tweaked version of Android on an HTC device, a modified version of the OS that brings several key social networking features to the forefront. Of course we’ve already seen phones like that as well… with absolutely no success.

Rumours aside for a moment, I have to wonder if a Facebook-branded phone is really in the interest of the consumer, given the social networks complex relationship with its billion or so users. You see, like Google, those who use Facebook’s social networking services are not the company’s customers, they’re its product, the thing the company sells to advertisers to generate revenues. Creating a phone that sports deep social integration won’t change this reality, making me wonder who would want to buy a phone that is keenly tweaked to turn into nothing more than eyeballs on advertising.

But back to the business at hand, if Facebook really is preparing to unveil its own branded mobile handset, look for the device with “a heavy focus on social integration, improved notifications and updates, automatic location sharing, proximity alerts for friends, and aggressive alerting for a variety of events, including those driven by vendors,” Rob Enderle, principal with the Enderle Group, explains.

That said, despite this event redialling persistent Facebook phone rumours, most clear heads are in agreement that what we’ll likely see on April 4th at Facebook’s Android event is nothing more than a modified Android OS, found first on an HTC device but something that will soon be available to all handset manufacturers. Of course I have to wonder why Facebook continues to return to HTC for its socially integrated phones, as previous attempts have ended up nothing sort of a disaster.

So what will this Facebook version of Android look like? As CNET writer Jennifer Van Grove explains, “Think Facebook integration to the core, with the social network’s collection of apps — Camera, Poke, Messenger — featured front and center. At the very least, we should get iOS-like Android integration features for logging in once, syncing contacts, sharing seamlessly, and so on.”

In the end, I don’t really think it matters if we see a full Facebook smartphone or simply a new version of Android geared towards social networking; neither will make a difference in the market. What mobile consumers have said time and again is that they have little interest in such singularly focused handsets, choosing to spend their money on a handset that does everything well, instead of one that does one thing well. So let the rumours continue to churn!

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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