The Facebook Phone: What You Need to Know

After a particularly tumultuous IPO run, rumors about that Facebook is trying to get back into the mobile game yet again. And for those of you insisting that Facebook is already in the mobile game, Mark Zuckerberg has other ideas, allegedly teaming up with superphone manufacturer HTC. The NYTimes has the scoop, with several anonymous Facebook employees and partners sharing details on the effort.

Key numbers
1—The $1 billion spent on Instagram was taken as a sign of their desire to expand their mobile department
3—This is their third attempt at building a smartphone.
16—billions that Facebook raised in its IPO, giving them money to risk but also expectations of increased profits to keep stockholders happy
12.5—the amount, in billions of dollars, that Google spent in acquiring Motorola Mobility last year, leading to speculation that it would start its own smart phone.


For Facebook, the motivation is clear; as a newly public company, it must find new sources of revenue, and it fears being left behind in mobile, one of the most promising areas for growth.

“Mark is worried that if he doesn’t create a mobile phone in the near future that Facebook will simply become an app on other mobile platforms,” a Facebook employee said.

Facebook also faces hurdles, often of its own making, on mobile. Twitter, for example, is fully integrated into the Apple iPhone and allows people to seamlessly send Twitter messages with photos or article links. Facebook, which has had a contentious relationship with Apple, is still not integrated into iOS.


Regardless of the difficulties of entering the phone game, Facebook is in the best position of nearly any other major software business. It already has an ecosystem of messaging, calendar, video, contact, and apps that it can grow on—even a browser that functions within its Android and iOS apps. And it has the continued goal of creating an immersive ecosystem.

That being said, Facebook also relies heavily on advertising, a relationship that could change the mobile game entirely. A cloud-based Facebook phone, with a low-entry barrier and advertiser support, could greatly expand their consumer base.

Below, a review of the HTC ChaCha, a 2011 Facebook-based phone produced by HTC. While not successful, it seemingly marked the first foray of Facebook into the phone business, and it acted as something of a pilot project.


New York Times Bits Blog

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