The rumor mill is on the grind again.  Tech sites were abuzz when Pocket Lint leaked that Facebook is working on a “Facebook Phone” with Taiwanese phone maker HTC.  The device even has a name—the HTC Opera UL. Interestingly, it has already been benchmarked in Nenamark2 with specifications showing it to have a 1.4GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor, Adreno 305 GPU, 1280 X720 display, and Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean OS.

It’s a secret that doesn’t make sense

TechCrunch was the first to report in 2010 that Facebook was secretly building a phone. These rumors were promptly dismissed the same day on Mashable.  Reports again resurfaced in November 2011, this time announcing that the phone was codenamed Buffy. However, come July 2012 during the Facebook earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg was again in denial, saying that a Facebook phone “wouldn’t make sense.”  This point was reiterated on a TechCrunch September 2012 article with Zuckerberg being quoted as saying, ““It’s a juicy thing to say we’re building a phone, which is why people want to write about it. But it’s so clearly the wrong strategy for us.”

Facebook phone concept Michal Bonikowski
Facebook phone concept Michal Bonikowski
Photo from Mindsailors

Every phone is already a Facebook phone

It seems that we’re being zucked into idea of getting all excited about a Facebook phone, though I really don’t see why it matters.  The news already put Facebook on DigiTimes, the New  York Times, and Bloomberg.  The Bloomberg report says that Apple employees and former Palm OS staff are working on the Facebook device. Zuckerberg’s strategy, as Engadget reports, has been to integrate Facebook into every phone and, in some instances, add a physical Facebook button on devices. This was already accomplished through phones like the HTC Salsa and HTC ChaCha, which both feature integration with Facebook; each has a Facebook button for sharing status messages and media with one touch of the button. iOS 6 also features Facebook integration.  The new functionality allows easy sharing of status updates, URLs, pictures, location, and more. You can even sync your calendar to your iOS device and update Facebook by speaking to Siri. Others have also pointed out that every major platform at present can be integrated with Facebook. Everyone with a smartphone can pretty much update their statuses and chat if they’re online. We can even say that Facebook messaging is the adequate alternative if you don’t have free VoIP services or BBM. Admit it or not, people are addicted to Facebook, and Facebook itself has even claimed that half of its user base access the social network via their mobile devices. If you think about it, and as Forbes deftly points out, every phone is already a Facebook phone.  How integrated does Facebook still want to be?

But Facebook needs this phone; do you?

Critics say that the device will probably appeal to a younger crowd that lives and breathes Facebook. Perhaps that’s true, especially if this phone is competitively priced. For reasons cited above, though, the public doesn’t need a Facebook phone. But Facebook does. Facebook stocks are expensive and shares have been reported to be low as results failed investors’ expectations. Just this October, shares rose up as Facebook proved its ability to earn with its mobile strategy, earning about $150 million from mobile. Even then, stocks are still 40 percent below the $38 IPO price. Facebook primarily makes money out of advertising, and obviously wants to cash in more on mobile. This was already evident when it spent $1 billion on Instagram. The social network is also rumored to be setting its sights on Opera. The latter point may be in the works given the HTC Opera UL moniker, unless the name is just a coincidence. There’s only one reason I can think of for building a Facebook phone, and this is to make money out of it.  But that’s not really a big secret, is it? Now, whether this strategy will work or not is up to consumers. I’ve said that the public doesn’t need it, but who cares what I think? The more important question is, do you want a Facebook phone?