Facebook Phone Dubbed ‘Buffy’ the iPhone Slayer

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- UNDATED PHOTO - The WB network's signature drama "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," starring actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, shown in this undated publicity photo, is pulling up stakes and moving to rival network UPN, according to Variety on April 23, 2001. Producer Twentieth Century Fox Television's pact with UPN, which could ultimately end up with a $150 million price tag, represents the first time in modern TV history that a hit series has jumped networks solely over economic issues.

Word is, Facebook’s finally getting into the smartphone business, something everyone’s assumed would happen at some point, but no one’s made unambiguous claims about until now.

The phone, according to All Things D, will be crafted by Taiwan-based smartphone manufacturer HTC and designed around Facebook’s mother-of-all-social-networks. It’s said to run Android, but a heavily tweaked version, devised to make Facebook’s mobile presence the center of attention. And, no surprise in view of Adobe’s recent announcement, look for HTML5 to be the phone’s primary application platform.

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The phone’s codename: “Buffy,” which All Things D claims is a nod to the celebrated TV vampire slayer. And with Android under the hood, fellow Android-based phone makers notwithstanding, there’s on need to be coy about who Facebook’s looking to stake.

How long before we see one? All Things D’s sources say a year to 18 months, in part because Facebook had been hedging between Samsung and HTC and only recently picked a horse. When asked about the phone, Facebook’s response was predictably evasive and PR-polished: “Our mobile strategy is simple: We think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social. We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers to bring powerful social experiences to more people around the world.”

Translation: Of course we’re making a Facebook phone. Duh!

Getting into the phone game for a player on Facebook’s scale sounds like a no-brainer, but the reason it’s crucial is the same now as it was when Microsoft conquered the consumer desktop/laptop market over a decade ago: Whoever controls the spice—in this case, the interface we use to interact with the world on these devices—controls the universe. While Facebook’s mobile presence as an app on Apple and Android-based smartphones is considerable, it’s still subsidiary to iOS and Android’s innate tools and strictures, be they Apple’s App Store regulations or Google’s own burgeoning Google+ network.

With a Facebook-branded and architected device, Facebook no doubt wants to become the interface you use to keep in touch with others, not just a place you go, on the side, to track “Likes,” birthdays and quips by family and friends in relentless status feeds.

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Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.