Rumor: 'Facebook Phone' to be unveiled

An event announced as "come see our new home on Android" has sparked new speculation about a Facebook smartphone.

 

UPDATE:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with executives at Samsung Electronics Co. as part of his trip to South Korea where he discussed ways to improve business activity with President Park Geun-hye.

Zuckerberg said South Korea is a key market for Facebook, the presidential office said in a statement. Zuckerberg's chat with Samsung and presence in Korea is buzzing on Mashable and the Wall Street Journal about the ongoing rumor that a "Facebook Phone" is in the works.  The Korea Herald is reporting that Facebook wants to establish closer ties with Samsung in hopes that the company becomes the second Google.

 

Previous story:

TRUE: Facebook likely to reveal new HTC phone that integrates Facebook into Android operating system

UPDATE: Facebook has unveiled a new experience for Android phones. The idea is to bring content right to you, rather than require people to check apps on the device.

An announcement by Facebook inviting journalists to "come see our new home on Android" has once again kick-started rumors of a Facebook-branded smartphone. MSN News spoke with Facebook analyst Brian Blau from market research firm Gartner about what the social network may have up its sleeve. Blau says it's more likely that the social media giant will unveil a "Facebook OS" at its April 4 event.

Something big

Reports by TechCrunch, CBS and The Huffington Post have been buzzing about the possibility of a "Facebook Phone".

The latest round of rumors began Friday when an unnamed source told TechCrunch that the event announced by Facebook was effectively a rollout for a device described as "a modified version of the Android operating system with deep native Facebook functionality on the homescreen that may live on an HTC handset." From that description, it appears the device is less of a Facebook-powered smartphone than an Android-powered HTC phone that's tied to Facebook in new ways.

Blau says this description of an integrated operating system makes an OS more likely than an actual Facebook-branded smartphone. But whatever Facebook unveils, Blau says he expects it to be "significant."

"How can Facebook help their users have a better or more social experience?" Blau asks. "The answer is that they have to have a bigger presence on their devices, so taking over some amount of a user's interface would really be where they have to go to do that."

Huge opportunity

Blau says the opportunity for Facebook to make money with a more prominent place on smartphones lies not only in the increased advertising revenue companies would pay if Facebook can reach more people, but also in the closer relationship that would form between the company and its users. "Above and beyond anything, if what we're talking about is true, it would give Facebook more time with its users, which is really what they're after," Blau says.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have also reported that the announcement will not be for an actual phone but more likely an integration of new Facebook-centric software into an Android-powered phone. Nonetheless, numerous media outlets have used the term "Facebook Phone" in headlines. But whatever the famously secretive network is planning, Blau says, it will be worth watching. "They don't invite the world’s press and then not roll out something big," he says.

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