Android-Based 'Facebook Phone' Is By INQ Mobile

First TechCrunch reported Facebook was working on a phone or mobile OS. Then CEO Mark Zuckerberg went on the record to dispel the rumor so as not to hurt the company's relationships with partners and would-be partners. He explained that Facebook was looking to work with everybody in mobile and be as deeply integrated as possible into mobile OSs generally and serve as the social platform or enabler for mobile.

But Bloomberg is out with more details of an actual quasi-branded handset, which turns out to be a new and improved (perhaps) version of INQ's "social mobile" handset introduced last year:

Facebook Inc. is working with mobile-handset manufacturer INQ Mobile Ltd. on two smartphones that may be carried by AT&T Inc., according to three people familiar with the matter.

The devices, which will feature Facebook social-networking services, are due to be introduced in Europe in the first half of 2011 and the U.S. in the second half, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans haven’t been made public. AT&T, the second-largest U.S. wireless service provider, is still considering whether to carry the devices and hasn’t made a deal, another of the people said . . .

The new phones are slated to run Google Inc.’s Android operating system and will probably carry the AT&T brand in the U.S., according to one of the people. Facebook hasn’t decided whether its name will be used on the devices, the person said. 

Here's what Zuckerberg says in his TechCrunch follow-up interview about INQ:

[D]ifferent people come to us with different ideas all the time, and we mentioned the example of the INQ phone in the past, and I think you appropriately said that it isn’t some massive big thing, but it is cool and actually a lot of people bought it . . .

The INQ phone, I don’t think we had any engineers work on it. And certainly HTC modifies all their own Android stuff — Sense. I think a lot of companies are trying to figure out how to differentiate on that. A bunch of them are interested in talking to us, I think it makes sense. Social is becoming more important to make all these applications better. If we can help them do that, that can potentially be very valuable, but that’s more them. I don’t know — it’s a very decentralized ecosystem and there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on.

It will be interesting to see how deeply integrated Facebook is on this device -- is it a "social layer" available to all the apps if you're signed in to Facebook -- and how prominently Facebook's brand shows up on the device. 

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