Rumours galore! Every single time Facebook releases a cryptic invite for the members of the press to unveil something, ripples about the fabled Facebook Phone spread far and wide. This time too, whispers of the mythical phone built around the Facebook eco-system have hit town, mere days before Facebook’s event.

Facebook has an event lined up for April 4 and the media is invited to its Menlo Park headquarters. The invite, which reads “Come See Our New Home on Android”, does not let out much apart from the fact that the announcement will be pertaining to an Android-related product.

Now rumours of a Facebook phone have gained mileage. It is being speculated that this time it is indeed going to be a phone that is being launched and HTC is building it. A Guardian article suggests that the phone is about to be reminiscent of a black iPhone to those who have seen it.

What a happy couple!

What a happy couple!

The 4.3-inch display of the supposed Facebook phone has decent specifications, but just about it. It will have a 5 megapixel rear camera and a 1.6 megapixel front one for video calls. And while it will have a simple 16 gigabytes of storage, the Android OS will have a Facebook flavour. HTC is popular for giving a custom taste to the Android OS with the Sense UI on its phones as it is.

With Facebook involved, HTC will be looking at deeper integration of Facebook services and a modified version of the Android OS, reports TechCrunch. The phone could possibly have faster access to Facebook’s vital functions like posting status updates, uploading photos, Messenger app and even Instagram. It will be interesting to see how HTC moulds the OS to fit the Facebook ecosystem.

This would not be the first time HTC and Facebook are coming together for a phone. The Taiwanese company had built the ChaCha and the Salsa, two phones with a Facebook twist. Both phones had a dedicated Facebook button but failed to do too well, being discontinued in a matter of months. The new phone plans to be a better integrated version of Facebook on mobile rather than a plain Facebook embedded in HTC’s Sesne UI.

Thanks to Facebook’s interesting word play on the invite, the project is rumoured to be called Facebook Home. HTC and Facebook are working on an ad campaign in Southern California too, 9to5Google revealed. People familiar with the development of the campaign said that it is supposed to be focused on the potential user of the device and not the hardware or software. One of the tag-lines for the device is apparently, “more than just an app.”

Of course, Facebook has the potential to be a lot more than just an app. With a billion users backing the site, Facebook not only has the numbers, but also the tools to build something bigger and better. Any Android user will tell you how annoying it can get to use Facebook’s native app on the device. While recent updates have made sure the app is tolerable, it is far from being perfect. Hopefully, Facebook Home will have a lot more potential.

The invite that sparked a thousand rumours

The invite that sparked a thousand rumours

The phone has a potentially large user base, and that is undeniable. With a billion users spread across the world, many social networking buffs will want a piece of this modestly built phone. One thing to keep in mind though is the fact that Facebook comes pre-packaged with nearly every single smartphone available globally today. Would this dent Facebook Home’s prospects?

There is no denying that mobility is a very crucial issue for Facebook. Not too long ago, Mark Zuckerberg had announced, “There’s no argument, Facebook is a mobile company,” even as the company revealed its 2012 Q4 earning calls in January. For the first time ever, official figures showed that the number of Daily Active Users (DAU) who accessed Facebook through mobile had exceeded those on the desktop. He also referenced a comScore report to prove that Facebook is the top app in the US, beating Google Maps, and accounts for 23 percent of total time spent on mobile apps in the the country.

In a bid to motivate employees to force development of mobile apps, product managers at Facebook, including ex CEO of Gowalla, Josh Williams, turned off access to in the office. Talking at SXSW a while ago, Williams said, “To be honest, a couple of weeks ago, myself and a number of other product managers had access to our website internally shut off. Basically it forced us to use only mobile devices for a week…It forced us to say, 'Hey, we have these features that exist in one place but not in another, and we have to remedy'.”

Yes, Facebook is mobile and it looks like the social network is slowly but surely shifting its focus on to mobility with the launch of a new phone. All eyes are on Facebook and its April 4 announcement now. For better or worse, it looks like the Facebook Phone is finally coming.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,