Jul 28th, 2014

The mythical Facebook Phone was first rumored in 2010 but the most we’ve seen thus far are gimmicky devices like the HTC Status with dedicated Facebook buttons. The idea isn’t far fetched: Facebook has doubled down on mobile by investing billions in companies like WhatsApp while showing a desire to enter uncharted territory with acquisitions like Oculus. With their latest patent, Facebook is showing that Amazon isn’t the only company trying to cash in on building their own Android ecosystem.

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The patent, titled “co-molding display with body of mobile device,” fits well with the previous Facebook and HTC mobile partnerships. HTC first pioneered their unibody frame in 2010 with the HTC Legend, at the time only rivaled in craftsmanship by Apple’s iPhone, and the company continues to make some of the best devices (see HTC One M8).

But this isn’t HTC’s patent – it’s Facebook’s – and the manufacturing process detailed makes us wonder exactly what they’ve got up their sleeves. In some ways it appears to offer a removal sleeve that would suggest Project Ara-type functionality, but the patent description homes in on manufacturing, so it’s unclear if the final product would act as such for the consumer.

We’ve continued to hear rumors that Facebook is still pursuing mobile hardware so this isn’t surprising, but launching their own self-made device hasn’t been forecasted by industry analysts- this is a step in a new direction.

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Facebook is currently one of the predominant players in mobile, so leveraging this presence may seem like a logical move, but what would a Facebook phone accomplish that a Facebook app on Android can’t?

Driving revenue for one, but it seems an unlikely motivation given that Facebook’s strength is in software. Facebook could package premium, subscription services for products like WhatsApp, Instagram, Oculus, and anything else their working on much like (Amazon is doing with the Fire Phone and Prime), but that seems like a fringe benefit rather than a primary motive, unless Facebook has more to announce than the phone itself.

Unless the above question can yield a definitive answer, I’m not confident any “Facebook Phone” will make a dent in Samsung’s Android stranglehold. In the meantime, I’ll start praying that Zuck goes on another buying spree, snatches up Nokia from Microsoft, and starts making the premium Nokia Android Phones we’ve craved for the past several years.

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