New speculation as pressure builds on Facebook to monetise its mobile users.
It's back again – the fabled Facebook phone. Or at least, whispers surrounding its existence.
In the past this mythical device ended up as a hard button on the HTC Status or another of INQ's themed handsets. There were strong rumours of a collaboration with HTC on a 'project Buffy' last year, but this seemed to go nowhere.
But now the New York Times has reported it could be back in some form. It says that Facebook hopes to release its own smartphone by next year, and cites sources who say the firm has recruited a team of former Apple engineers to build it.
Facebook did not respond directly to the issue and merely alluded to a previous statement last year that said: “We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers.”
There's certainly pressure in the social media giant to do something dramatic in mobile. Over half of its 900m users access the site from the mobile channel, but Facebook has failed to convert its ad play over to its apps and handheld sites.
Indeed, this is a major factor in Facebook's dramatic recent share slump. $100m wiped off in a week.
A device is one obvious way to skew the mobile experience around Facebook. But it's a high risk, high cost strategy - which has defeated many smart companies including Dell, Acer, Motorola and Sony.
Another possibility, aslo the subject of strong rumour, is that Facebook could buy a browser like Opera or Bitstream and build its own mobile user experience.