Facebook is the leading app on the iPhone. But does that popularity as an app mean that Facebook would have success with its own branded handset?
Next week on April 4 Facebook seems poised to introduce some version of the long-rumored "Facebook phone." The speculation is that it will be an HTC-made handset carrying a "forked" version of Android. We'll see. But I'm extremely skeptical that anything like can succeed at scale.
HTC previously made two Android handsets in 2011 with deeper Facebook integration: the ChaCha and the Salsa. They both flopped. INQ has also made social-media-centric handsets since 2009, which have not done especially well.
Let's assume that everything on the hypothetical HTC handset is deeply integrated with Facebook: contacts, dialer, camera, maps, apps, messaging and so on. Let's also assume that everything works elegantly. It's highly unlikely that there will be mass-market demand for this phone.
Most people are not so involved with Facebook that they would turn over this most important piece of personal technology to the company. There will also be the inevitable privacy questions and concerns ("Is Facebook tracking me?"). Most people I know are quite content to use a Facebook app on their smartphones. The notion of an entire handset devoted to Facebook seems excessive and unnecessary.
Perhaps the phone will offer some unique and impressive functionality or be priced extremely aggressively. Perhaps "younger people" will be interested. I remain very doubtful, however, that the majority of users will want to buy a smartphone so closely aligned with a single social network.