This weekend, TechCrunch reported that popular social networking site Facebook was secretly creating its own branded mobile phone, and that executives Joe Hewitt and Matthew Papakipos were working on the project under the radar of most of Facebook’s staff.
The report was quickly followed by a statement from Facebook denying the allegations:
“The story, which originated in Techcrunch, is not accurate. Facebook is not building a phone. Our approach has always been to make phones and apps more social. Current projects include include everything from an HTML5 version of the site to apps on major platforms to full Connect support with SDKs to deeper integrations with some manufacturers. Our view is that almost all experiences would be better if they were social, so integrating deeply into existing platforms and operating systems is a good way to enable this. For an example, check out Connect for iPhone and the integration we have with contact syncing through our iPhone app. Another example is the INQ1 phone with Facebook integration (the first so-called ‘Facebook Phone’). The people mentioned in the story are working on these projects. The bottom line is that whenever we work on a deep integration, people want to call it a ‘Facebook Phone’ because that’s such an attractive soundbite, but building phones is just not what we do.”
These statements have been viewed as a matter of semantics rather than an outright denial, and TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington called the statement a simple case of PR spinning, and followed by saying, “We don’t know the timing, and we don’t know how deep the software stack is that Facebook is contemplating building, but we know that as of very recently the project was alive and well.”
Whether or not the statements presented by either party are true, the fact remains that Facebook is already exceedingly popular in the mobile realm.
According to the site’s own records, Facebook for iPhone has 45,971,733 monthly users, Facebook for BlackBerry has 21,762,411, Facebook for Android has 1,920,034, and Facebook for WebOS has 717,861.
This amounts to 70,372,039 monthly users already, without even counting Windows Mobile devices, Symbian devices, or devices accessing Facebook through a mobile browser. If the site were to develop its own mobile device, it would have to present a decidedly different experience than the ones already available in mobile apps, one which finally includes the site’s casual gaming empire.