31/05/2012 19:09 | By Adam Hartley, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

The Facebook Phone - rumour round-up

Is Mark Zuckerberg planning a Facebook Phone? We've pulled together all the rumours so you don't have to.


Could Zuckerberg be planning a Facebook phone? (© Bloomberg; Getty Images)

So it looks very much like Facebook could well be heading into the hardware business pretty soon, following the publication this week of some fairly solid rumours that Mark Zuckerberg and co are planning to develop and launch a 'Facebook phone' at some point in the very near future.

We've been here before, of course, with mobile manufacturer HTC releasing its ChaCha and Salsa Android phones last year which, prior to their release, were heavily rumoured to be official Facebook phones but - much to the annoyance of the internet tech rumour merchants - merely featured a Facebook-branded button.

Around the same time in February 2011, Facebook also partnered with another mobile manufacturer, INQ (pronounced 'ink'). The company released the touchscreen Cloud Touch and the keyboard-controlled Cloud Q at Mobile World Congress, which were described by their designers as having "Facebook in their DNA".

However, none of these were the Facebook phone we'd been hoping for. Could the latest rumours finally deliver? We've saved you the bother of traipsing around the internet and gathered the most credible, interesting and downright bizarre talk doing the rounds about Facebook's plans to design and market its own smartphone.

The Facebook Phone will be bright blue
If Facebook does decide to enter the incredibly competitive mobile phone market, then it is going to have to produce a handset that immediately differentiates itself from all of the many other me-too black and shiny smartphones out there in the wild.

Hence, some are whispering that the company may create a phone that is immediately recognisable by being bright blue in colour - the same default colour as Facebook's website and current crop of mobile apps. But would you really want to be spotted sporting a bright blue phone?

- How much we want it - 2/10
- Probability factor - 1/10

The Facebook Phone will be officially announced at MWC 2013
According to anonymous 'insider sources' providing information to New York Times' reporters, the Facebook smartphone is set to be "released next year" which, if true, suggests that the social network would most likely make an official announcement at the world's biggest mobile phone industry event in Barcelona in February 2013.

- How much we want it - 8/10
- Probability factor - 6/10

The Facebook App Center suggests hardware is to follow
Facebook recently announced its own plans to develop a mobile app centre to assist its users that are currently using Facebook's app on their mobile devices. The general idea of Facebook's App Center is to filter the best Facebook-friendly apps and social games for your smartphone or tablet and help you to avoid wasting your time with downloading one of the many poorly-designed apps that currently clutter up the internet.

With this in mind, it's certainly no major stretch of the imagination to assume that Facebook has seriously considered integrating its own cross-platform App Center into its proprietary smartphone hardware. Of course, only time will tell...

- How much we want it - 9/10
- Probability factor - 8/10

Zuckerberg will take the risk - because he can afford to
Making effective smartphone handsets is a costly and risky business. As long-term tech observers know, many of the handset makers that appear at the annual Mobile World Congress event one year may not be spotted the following year.

However, Facebook is quite different. The social network giant has just floated on the US stock market and is worth over $100 billion. Which means that the company has cash to splash on risky yet potentially long-term, lucrative initiatives such as smartphone making. This is why, according to the New York Times, Facebook has been hiring some of the top industry experts that previously worked on the iPhone and other leading smartphones.

According the NYT, Zuckerberg is "worried that if he doesn't create a mobile phone in the near future Facebook will simply become an app on other mobile platforms".

- How much we want it - 9/10
- Probability factor - 9/10

The Facebook Phone will know your face
Face.com face recognition tech could well be worked into an official Facebook phone at some point in the future, if rumours that Facebook is offering in the region of $100 million to acquire the face identifying specialists are to be believed.

After all, a new mobile that featured decent voice recognition and accurate facial recognition tech would surely rule the roost?

Face.com's CEO Gil Hirsch remains quiet on the matter, for now, telling TechCrunch this week: "We have nothing new to announce or share at this time."

- How much we want it - 10/10
- Probability factor - 6/10

Facebook will stick to partnering with other mobile makers
Not every tech industry watcher is convinced that the plan to make a Facebook phone would satisfy Mark Zuckerberg's many new investors.

Henry Blodget of Business Insider thinks that Facebook would have a serious amount of egg on its face if it enters (and subsequently fails in) the smartphone market.

"So instead of building a phone, which seems like a desperate move, Facebook should partner with every operating system and carrier and hardware maker it can to try to embed this social platform within every mobile platform," thinks Blodget. "And it should build great apps to float on top of these systems."

- How much we want it - 8/10
- Probability factor - 8/10

What do you think - would you buy a Facebook phone? Let us know in the comments below.

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