Is Facebook Building a Phone?

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Catchafire.org wants to catch your fire!

The Web lit up with a buzz this weekend over TechCrunch’s story about Facebook building a branded phone.  It didn’t take long for others, like Engadget, to latch on and spread the news.

Very quickly, though, Facebook issued a denial (via Mashable), saying that they had no phone plans and, but were working on “deep integration” with existing mobile phone platforms.

Of course, the news was too savory to ignore, so more was posted, including a fake mockup of the phone (made as a joke, pictured at right) by Sean Percival.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s denial was countered by TechCrunch with the obvious: Google, Microsoft, and Apple all said they weren’t working on phones either.. Then they released them.

So the question remains: is Facebook building a branded phone and if so, why would they do it?

I think Dan Frommer at Business Insider has that answer.  Currently, Facebook is the most-visited website on the iPhone.  This doesn’t mean much for Facebook, since those visitors are just more Web users as far as they’re concerned – right now.

But if Facebook were to build a platform and really engage users through proprietary access or uses through that mobile platform, they’d be a powerful force to recon with in mobile.

The bad news for Microsoft is that the reported background for this Facebook phone will be Google’s Android, trumping both Apple and MS. This would be obvious thanks to Facebook’s recent recruiting of ex-Android man Erick Tseng.

Being its own platform, and based on a relatively open operating schematic like Android, Facebook could not only easily build phones for every cellular network, but they could cash in on the huge mobile market by co-branding their phone offering with their already-hugely-popular social networking site.

Finally, as the icing on the cake, Facebook doesn’t have any real partnerships with any of those who would be negatively affected by a Facebook phone.

So despite the denials, it’s pretty obvious that Zuckerberg and Co would have a lot to gain from a Facebook-centric smart phone.  So don’t be surprised when its’ released.


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