he hyper-connected brain trust at Menlo Park, N.J., wants to give you something to "Like," so on Thursday the company is preparing to launch what could be the long-rumored Facebook Phone. (Not an April Fools' joke.) A sparse, Facebook-blue invite was sent out to the tech press for an event on Thursday, April 4, which simply reads, "Come see our new home on Android."
Yep, it looks like after years of speculation, a do-everything Facebook operating system will soon be leaving the fantastical company of unicorns, Easter bunnies, and Apple TVs to finally become a reality. According to TechCrunch, sources indicate that the social network is partnering with HTC to launch a "modified version of the Android operating system with a deep native Facebook functionality." Although what the phone will look like and what it will actually do are still under wraps, sources say the the rejiggered platform will beam Facebook's activity stream — stuff like messages, location check-ins, and status updates — directly to the phone's homescreen. ZDNet also chimed in, reporting that the HTC/Facebook device will pack standard-issue Android hardware, including a 4.3-inch screen and a 5 megapixel rear-camera. One can reasonably assume that the HTC One, this ain't.
At the right price, a Facebook Phone might not actually be a terrible idea. Some 680 million of Facebook's 1 billion users access the social network regularly from their mobile phones, and as Mark Zuckerberg has admitted time and time again, the company is still trying to figure out how to efficiently eke dollar signs out of all those eyeballs without coming off as intrusive. Some recent studies have suggested that the average user spends as many as 6.76 hours on the network every month, so clearly someone out there wouldn't mind 24/7/365 Facebook access. By blinking soullessly into their screens, the people have spoken. Give them what they want.
Then there's the utility. You could theoretically use Facebook's services to do most of the stuff you use your phone for, anyway — post and peruse photos (Instagram, too!), send and read messages, have G-rated SnapChats with friends, read stories people share, and even place a phone call for free. Basically, anything short of surfing the web.
On the other hand, Facebook-connected Android handsets sold in the past have bombed spectacularly. There was the not-actually-horrible HTC ChaCha from two years ago, which looked a lot like a BlackBerry and featured a dedicated Facebook button for one-click access to status updates. And there was the HTC Salsa, which featured a larger touchscreen equipped with a similar FB button. Both were uninspired and rightfully dissolved into the ether.
Then again, the most compelling case against a Facebook Phone may be that you can already do a lot of the things a dedicated Facebook OS promises. Try this. Whip out your smartphone, tap into to your respective app store, and download this app: "Facebook." It's worth checking out if you haven't already.
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