Facebook Phone Rumor Rises from the Grave

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There is no Facebook phone, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has insisted time after time. But the rumor mill won’t listen, and now DigiTimes reports that HTC is working on the fabled device.

HTC is developing a “customized smartphone in cooperation with Facebook,” which could launch as soon as the third quarter, DigiTimes’ unnamed sources say. The phone will reportedly be based on Android, but unlike HTC’s Salsa and Status (pictured) phones, which merely integrate some basic Facebook functions, this rumored device will run on a platform exclusive to Facebook. The idea, I think, would be to have lots of Facebook features built right into the phone, with apps that are built around sharing.

We’ve heard this all before. Last November, All Things Digital reported that HTC was designing a Facebook phone, codenamed “Buffy.” The device would rely heavily on web apps, and would launch in a year to 18 months–a timeframe that lines up with DigiTimes’ report. TechCrunch first floated the idea of a Facebook phone in fall 2010.

Yet Zuckerberg has repeatedly said that it’s not going to happen:

  • In September 2010: “Our whole strategy is not to build any specific device or integration or anything like that. Because we’re not trying to compete with Apple or the Droid or any other hardware manufacturer for that matter.”
  • In November 2010: “There’s been this rumor floating around recently that Facebook’s going to build a phone — no.”
  • In February 2011, referring to phones like the Status and Salsa: “A lot has been made about a single Facebook phone. But this year, you can expect to see dozens of phones.”

Who to believe? I tend to think every recurring rumor has at least a kernel of truth–for instance, Apple has continued to release cheaper phones, but never a cheap iPhone Nano. In a related rumor, Facebook has also reportedly been working on a web app platform that would run on any smartphone.

It seems clear, at least, that Facebook doesn’t want its mobile presence to rely on the iPhone and Android platforms forever. If HTC does end up making a true Facebook phone, I won’t be shocked.