Los Angeles Times
Get ready for the Facebook phone.
The company is close to unveiling a smartphone whose software keeps the social network front and center. It is part of an overall strategy to advance Facebook’s ambitions to dominate on mobile devices the way it has on desktop computers. Facebook Inc. has scheduled a news conference Thursday at its Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters to show off an HTC smartphone that operates on software called Facebook Home. The social network’s News Feed, messaging, photo uploading and other features will be integrated into the phone, according to reports.
It will be the biggest step yet to re-engineer Facebook into a mobile company. Like Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. before it, Facebook is putting a device into people’s hands designed to tether them to the service.
Facebook is under heavy pressure to capture — and keep — the attention of users who are spending more time than ever on mobile devices so that it can cash in on mobile advertising. And that has forced the giant social network to attempt the most dramatic transformation in its history. It has deployed hundreds of engineers on coding mobile projects. It rolled out new mobile advertising formats and new mobile apps such as Poke, and overhauled its iPhone and Android apps. Facebook also stepped up its focus on Android, which in recent years has surpassed the iPhone to become the No. 1 operating system for smartphones around the world.
At the end of last year, the number of active daily users accessing Facebook on a mobile device exceeded the number logging on from desktop computers for the first time. More than 650 million of its more than 1 billion users check Facebook from mobile devices — and that number is growing fastest in big markets such as the U.S.
“Facebook’s goal is to get its stuff in front of as many people as possible,” IDC analyst Karsten Weide said. The HTC phone is powered by a modified version of Google’s Android mobile software. If successful, the HTC phone could be the first of many, analysts said. “This is a way to get the distribution that they would have gotten through their own smartphone by partnering with somebody else,” Weide said.