HTC ?Facebook Phone? May Launch This Year: Can It Compete With Samsung's Google Rivals?

 @LisaEadicicco
on April 25 2012 4:59 PM

The long rivalry between Google and Facebook has been taken a step further, this time into the mobile realm. As Google is expected to collaborate with Samsung Electronics for its next Galaxy smartphone, HTC may be teaming up with Facebook for a new device that could see a third-quarter release in 2012, reported DigiTimes.

The information came from industry sources, said the online tech publication. The Android-based smartphone, to be developed by HTC, will offer a platform that is exclusive to Facebook users and would integrate all functions available on the social networking site. The company has launched two Facebook-enabled phones in the past, known as the Salsa and the ChaCha. The two gadgets debuted in February 2011 and featured a physical Facebook button below the screen, enabling quick and easy content sharing.

HTC collaborated with Google previously to launch the search engine company's first brand smartphone, the Nexus One. Google then transitioned to Samsung for its second- and third-generation smartphones, the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus. Samsung has become one of the top vendors of Android phones, claiming 25.6 percent total mobile subscribers in February 2012, according to ZDNet. HTC ranked in fifth place with 6.3 percent from that same month, falling just under competitors Motorola and Apple. Google intends to stick with the Korea-based company when it comes to manufacturing its Nexus mobile devices, the sources also said to DigiTimes.

Although industry insiders have told the website that HTC's Facebook smartphone could be in development, others don't believe the new social-media centered device will launch. Information Week's Eric Zeman called this information folly, outlining a few reasons why a Facebook phone is unlikely.

One the primary reasons Zeman cites is the failure of previous social media-based phones. A British company called INQ sold a Facebook-oriented phone that integrated the social media site's developer tools to enable direct sharing access. The company ended up switching to a user interface on top of Google's Android platform, and Zeman described INQ as more or less defunct at this point.

The previously mentioned Salsa and ChaCha provide another example, with the Salsa never making its way to U.S. retailers. The ChaCha was sold by AT&T, but was not a successful device. Microsoft's Kin, which was advertised as premium social networking device, included services such as Facebook and Twitter built in.

But, from the start, Kin devices seemed doomed, wrote Priya Ganapati of Wired. The phone's failure was attributed to a variety of features, such as an operating system that was between stages, its smartphone price tag despite not being classified into that category, and its lack of apps and games.

Another factor to consider is Facebook's integration with the two leading operating systems, iOS and Android. The social media platform already offers apps that fit into the iOS/Android sphere, so the development of a new Facebook phone seems unnecessary, writes Zeman. There's little need and little market for a phone that does only one thing well, he points out. It's hard to see what a dedicated Facebook phone could offer above and beyond what's already available to the bulk of today's smartphones.

This isn't the first time rumors of a Facebook smartphone have surfaced. In November 2011 it was reported that HTC would be involved in a smartphone project with Facebook, but the hype had settled down until now. It is unclear exactly which direction HTC will take with this new device, as Facebook has said that it will not allow manufactures to call their products a Facebook phone, according to ZDNet.

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