Rumors of a Facebook smartphone are about as persistent as a Chris Christie presidential run, and usually just as (un)true. CNET even dedicated a blog post to tracking the evolution of the two year-old rumor, tellingly entitled “Tracking the Rumor that Just Won’t Die.” Mark Zuckerberg himself has repeatedly stated that a “Facebook phone doesn’t make sense,” and that they’re “not going to build a phone.”
So while it certainly doesn’t appear Facebook is going to release its own phone and operating system, something is certainly afoot. Last week the social media giant sent out an invitation to the media for an event on April 4 that promises to showcase Facebook’s “new home on Android”. Mike Isaac of All Things Digital suspects we won’t be getting a Facebook phone, but a “Facebook-y version of a phone,” which Facebook hopes will serve as a user’s primary mode of communication in any form, whether SMS, voice, e-mail, or video chat.
So, it looks like we’re going to get something more than a Facebook skin, but less than a Facebook phone. According to the Wall Street Journal, that essentially means that Facebook will serve as something of a gateway for accessing communication functions. It will be the first screen users see when they activate their devices, thus establishing a greater level of integration than is otherwise offered by a mobile app. Facebook has been making a series of moves lately to up its mobile presence, and this is certainly in keeping with that strategy.
But will anyone care? As several commentators noted, aren’t all phones Facebook phones already? If we use the Facebook home screen as a contacts list, will we have to navigate out of it if we want to place a phone call or send an e-mail to someone who doesn’t have a Facebook account? (Believe it or not, yes, such people really do exist.) To be fair, Facebook doesn’t usually host big media events when it doesn’t have something exciting to say, so tune in to Thursday’s announcement if you want to be among the first to know what’s what.