Facebook phone rumors heating up despite official denial

rumors of a facebook phone emerged sunday

Rumors of a Facebook phone were denied by Facebook. Experts are skeptical the product would fly in today's smartphone market. Image: CC Christiano Betta/Flickr

Facebook phone rumors spread across the Internet Sunday. Facebook denies them. A Facebook phone supported by 500,000 Facebook members to rival Apple’s iPhone and Android phones seems like an obvious development in the midst of the craze over smartphones.  But despite Google’s world domination, the Nexus One quickly faded into oblivion. Microsoft’s Kin fared even worse. Nevertheless, although Facebook denies it is building a phone, the company has investigated the feasibility of a Facebook phone. Some analysts say a Facebook phone is destined to flop because it’s not necessary. Others say that before Facebook attempts to create its own development platform, it needs to make its Facebook app work better on existing smartphone platforms.

What to expect from a Facebook phone

The Facebook phone story first broke on TechCrunch. Michael Arrington wrote that Facebook is secretly building software for a phone and working with a third party manufacturer, just like Apple does with the iPhone. Arrington said that a rockstar developer left the Google Chrome project in June for Facebook and that a Facebook phone operating system was likely what lured him away. He speculates that a Facebbok phone would be affordable and fully integrated to Facebook to the point where a user could call a friend’s name, instead of a phone number.

Facebook’s false starts

The Facebook phone could be the latest rumor about the company’s intentions that comes to nothing. Facebook told CNET that its priority was deeper integration with existing smartphones, not building its own. CNN reports that Facebook is well-known for leaking ideas, but the company either scraps them outright or pursues a completely different tangent. Facebook told CNET that its priority was deeper integration of Facebook apps with existing smartphones, not building its own. In 2008 rumors arose about a Facebook music service to compete with MySpace Music, but no such service has yet emerged. “Facebook Wallet,” a proprietary e-commerce product to challenge PayPal, never materialized. Instead, Facebook announced earlier this year that it would partner with eBay’s PayPal to offer a transaction service called Facebook Credits.

Facebook can’t compete

A Facebook phone doesn’t make sense, according to John C. Abell at Wired. Abell calls the idea of a Facebook phone “the tail wagging the dog.” He writes that smartphone users won’t pass on the power and versatility of an iPhone or Android handset for the purpose of Facebook immersion with a branded handset. Robert Scobe at Business Insider writes that Facebook’s priorty should be to develop what is missing from its Facebook apps. He mentions deficiencies such as better support for contacts, photos and video. He also said Facebook’s main platform is lacking compared to other services. Even after the company’s explosive growth, the only advantage the Facebook platform has over others is 500,000 users.

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