Facebook would not necessarily have to build its own phone and operating
system from scratch. It could partner with another company to build the
hardware, as Google has done with handsets such as the Nexus One, built by
HTC, and the Nexus S, built by Samsung.
The company could follow the example set by Amazon with the Kindle Fire and
take Google’s Android operating system as its base and then overlay its own
interface so completely that it creates, in effect, a Facebook phone.
Whatever approach it takes, Facebook has a difficult task if it really does
plan to build its own phone. Previously successful brands, such as Nokia and
Blackberry-maker RIM, are struggling and very few manufacturers are selling
This would, however, be a way for Facebook to get smartphones to those people
in poorer countries who are joining the service in such numbers. By drawing
data from every aspect of their mobile interactions, Facebook could perhaps
make them more profitable.
Facebook has not said anything beyond a statement it issued last year, which
said: “We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators,
hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers.”
The question is whether Facebook needs to go so far as to create its own
mobile phone. Last year, when Apple announced the fifth version of iOS, the
operating system that runs its iPhone, the company embedded Twitter
throughout. Your contacts book adds Twitter names where applicable, the
browser, Safari, can post directly to Twitter and other apps can access your
Twitter account if you choose to let them.
Apple and Facebook have not had the best relationship in recent years but
Apple’s chief executive, Tim
Cook, suggested on Tuesday that the two companies might be on better terms.
He said: “Facebook has hundreds of millions of customers. So, anyone that has
an iPhone or iPad, we want them to have the best experience with Facebook on
those platforms. So stay tuned.”
That could mean Facebook integration is coming to iOS. The next challenge
would be to achieve similar integration with Android – something that could
prove tricky because both Google and Facebook make their money by selling
ads based on what they know about users.
Nevertheless, that’s a route that looks safer and more likely to succeed than
diving into the handset market.