Some rumors die. Some come back to haunt us. This one has already died twice and is now back the third time. Only this time it looks more solid. Nick Bilton from The New York Times reported that Facebook could be making its own smartphone for real this time. Apparently Facebook has been hiring engineers who have previously worked on the iPhone and iPad at Apple. This would be Facebook’s third attempt (read noob attempt) at making a smartphone. As per the report, Facebook may launch its smartphone in the market as early as next year. That’s of course if they’re able to pull off something amazing.
Let’s take a look at what the Facebook smartphone could look like, both in therms of software and hardware:
Facebook is a software company. For their smartphone to really stand out, they would need to focus on the software. Now if you take a look around – the iOS is already an industry leader in the smartphone market, Android has found love amongst several manufacturers, Microsoft is still working hard on making sure their next edition of Windows Phone OS is an absolute killer and RIM, well, they’re doing stuff too.
Facebook could gamble and work on its own OS from scratch. That, I think, would be a dick move. Reinventing the wheel isn’t going to win any battle of thrones err..smartphones I mean. The safest bet for Facebook could be to buy an existing smartphone operating system or go with Google’s open source mobile operating system – Android. Seems highly unlikely that Facebook will shake hands with those who must not be evil.
Seriously thinking, the Facebook operating system might be as simple as an app. Yes, it could be one big Facebook mobile application that further allows you to control and operate your smartphone.
Just like Google pitched its Chrome OS as a browser – Facebook’s smartphone OS might just be based on a smartphone running an enhanced version of the Facebook mobile application.
Come to think of it and Facebook already has everything it needs. An app for messaging and chatting, an app for social networking (duh!), a Camera app and even another photos app worth billions, Instagram. All this along with the existing app store it launched recently, which can be further enhanced to support a smartphone experience. They just need to stich everything together and present it in a way that makes it appealing to users. Personally, I just hope the OS doesn’t suck like their native mobile applications.
The Facebook smartphone ecosystem could be driven by content partners as well as applications developers who have been successful at making apps for Facebook earlier. Facebook Credits might play a significant role in the smartphone experience. Imagine being able to buy apps at retail stores via Facebook Credits. I can’t help but feel sorry for myself when I think of it – my friends playing idiotic games on Facebook to earn some Credits so they could use them.
The social experience of a Facebook smartphone may be dull, ugly and even boring at times, much like the Facebook web experience as of now. But you’ll still find yourself addicted to it because of the very same reason – all your friends are on Facebook.
This is the part where Facebook might run into a trouble. It has zero hardware experience and it just doesn’t have the juice to compete with major manufacturers, given its current situation. It has a lot of money in the bank, agreed, but will it spend all of it setting up a hardware unit? Or may be even buying one? Looks unpromising as a proposal.
Instead, Facebook could partner with a hardware company. Rumors had it that they had attempted one with HTC the last time around but it didn’t quite materialize. This time around things are much different.
Facebook is looking for alternate sources of revenue and mobile phone manufacturers are ready to do anything for more market share. Heck, RIM would strip naked for just a partnership.
So how would a Facebook phone look like? Well, pretty much how all smartphones look like – the iPhone. Ideally it could be a full touchscreen device. It could include a dedicated button like the home screen on most phones to launch the main menu along with other essential buttons such as a volume rockers and a power on/off button.
Camera optics can be easily outsourced. A decent 8MP camera would be great if it comes with almost zero shutter lag. Facebook doesn’t need to pull off a Nokia 404 here. Other hardware specifications could be – a dual core processor (pretty much a standard now) as I don’t think Facebook-ers need quad core madness, decent amount of RAM – considering Facebook’s current state I’d say a minimum of a gigabyte should be sufficient.
The display could be quite a challenge here. Facebook would attempt to keep it at par with Apple’s Retina Display on the iPhone. It’s a challenge because Facebook would also be looking at keeping the price of their phone slightly lower (pure gut feeling) as opposed to the iPhone. I’m not saying it’ll be a deal-maker but for many, this is one primary reason for buying an Android or a sub-standard smartphone – it is much cheaper and almost does the same things.
I’m no pundit, so before you post nasty comments below please keep this in mind. The Facebook smartphone may still be far far away from reality but it clearly shows how focused Mark is about more revenue streams. Facebook clearly doesn’t want to get left behind especially when Google is getting into hardware with their recent purchase of Motorola mobility.