Will a Facebook Phone Enhance its Mobile Ecosystem?

In November 2011, rumors regarding the Facebook phone resurfaced, indicating that the social networking giant was working with HTC to develop the phone.  They dubbed the venture as Project Buffy.

News regarding the said Facebook phone soon died, as no new material or evidence proved the phone’s existence.  People moved on, Facebook and HTC moved on.  But now, after months of hearing little about Project Buffy, reports about a Facebook phone have once again resurfaced.

HTC’s Facebook phone

According to a report from DigiTimes, HTC opted to make their own special device with Facebook after losing favor with Google, who’s teamed up time and again with Samsung for their Nexus handsets.

“The new Android smartphone being developed by HTC will have a platform exclusive to Facebook to enable and integrate all functions available on the social networking site, the sources indicated,” said the report based on unnamed sources.  “Previously, HTC launched two Facebook-enabled smartphones, the Salsa and Chacha.”

Digitimes’ sources also claimed that this effort will be part of Facebook’s strategy in expanding investments and increasing their source of income.  The launch of a Facebook phone is said to be part of their developmental strategy which will be implemented once they go public.

If Facebook’s initial public offering is the trigger for the launch of the said device, then we’d have to wait longer than expected, as the social giant’s IPO may be delayed until June due to their recent acquisitions.  But sources state that the public can expect the arrival of the Facebook phone sometime in the third quarter of this year.

Interestingly, Facebook previously stated that they had no intentions of building their own phone, and won’t let manufacturers market their devices as “the Facebook phone,” though they’re pleased that OEMs are creating Facebook-dedicated devices.  The news from DigiTimes, if true, could mean that Facebook is in fact ready to have its own branded device.

Facebook Android app upgrade

One benefit of Facebook launching its own device is the expansion of direct access to its ecosystem, which Facebook is already improving.

Facebook updated their Android app to bringing social app discovery channels to native Android apps.  They already have the same feature on their iOS app.

“With the latest update to Facebook for Android, we are bringing social app discovery channels to native Android apps,” said Michael Marucheck on Facebook’s blog.

“After introducing social app discovery for mobile web apps on Android and native apps on iOS, apps and games likePinterest, BranchOut, Diamond Dash, and Words with Friends quickly started seeing millions of people visit their apps from Facebook every month.”

“Users can now discover native apps directly from Facebook for Android using the same social channels, such as Requests, Bookmarks, and News Feed, that are available on other platforms.”

Marucheck instructed Android users upgrade their Facebook app, go to app settings, enable Android Native Deep Linking, and fill out the required fields, and they’re good to go.  He also provided a link for Android Developers who want to try their platform.

VentureBeat reported that Facebook aims to become “an important distribution mechanism for developers — mobile web developers, iOS developers, Android developers, everybody who makes apps for phones and tablets.”

“Whether I’m reading a newspaper article or eating a particular type of food… those types of stories are driving engagement,” said Facebook employee James Pierce in one such recent chat at Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters.

“Now on mobile, of course, we allow developers to configure how the user clicks that story, where that’s going to land. Is it going to launch a mobile web app, or the native app already installed on that device? Or to the marketplace where they can download that app?”