Handset makers scrambling to make Facebook a central part of their device

Facebook has become such an integral part of people's lives that handset makers are leaping over each other to feature the social networking site on their mobile devices.

Almost every company releasing a mobile pone these days lauds easy access to social networking site Facebook as a major feature of their device but handset makers are now taking the trend further with a craze that has given birth to a number of new social networking handsets dubbed "Facebook phones."

In the days leading up to Mobile World Congress (MWC), London-based social mobile company INQ introduced two new Android-powered Facebook phones: the INQ Touch and the INQ Cloud Q.

Both devices were developed in collaboration with Facebook and feature new mobile apps that put social networking at the forefront of the user experience.

Facebook's newsfeed appears directly on the homescreens of INQ's Facebook phones meaning users can instantly see video, pictures, web pages and posts added by their friends when they look at the device.

"We started the 'Social Mobile' category 3 years ago with the Skypephone and INQ1, as we believed integrating the internet was the future of mobile," said Frank Meehan, INQ's CEO.

"Since then, Facebook has evolved from a social network to become an incredibly powerful global communications platform. Speed and simplicity of access to things you love is our DNA, so our next step is to make it even easier for people to experience the richness of Facebook - all from the homescreen."

HTC is yet to announce its "Facebook phone" at MWC but images of two brand new HTC-branded handsets have already appeared on the net via pocketnow.com.

The devices - one of which is a QWERTY candybar form factor "à la the Motorola Droid" while the other is a "more traditional touchscreen slate" - both have dedicated Facebook buttons.

More information about the devices will be available after HTC's MWC press conference which is due to take place on February 15.  

It's not just smartphone manufacturers that are friending Facebook. Security company Gemalto has developed a SIM card that enables any user with any handset - even those without a data connection or subscription - to access Facebook on their mobile phone.

The Facebook for SIM is "compatible with 100% of SIM-compliant mobile phones," said Gemalto in a February 14 press release and provides users with core Facebook features via SMS technology.

"No data contract or application download is needed, because the software is embedded in the SIM," said Gemalto, adding that "[f]ollowing an initial limited free trial period, Facebook for SIM then operates on a subscription model via an unlimited pass for a given period of time."

Gemalto did not reply to an email from Relaxnews requesting specific pricing information.

While Facebook has actively worked with mobile makers to deeply integrate its social networking service, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said there are no plans to make a "Twitter phone."

During a speech at Mobile World Congress, technology website Paid Content reports that Costolo said, "I believe there is a need [to better integrate] Twitter in existing platforms for phones, but not for a Twitter-branded smartphone."

The INQ Cloud Touch will be available in the second quarter of 2011 while the INQ Cloud Q is set for a third quarter release. Both phones will be marketed at "affordable prices for the mass market," said INQ.

http://paidcontent.org/article/419-mwc-no-twitter-branded-smartphone-says-costolo/
http://pocketnow.com/android/htc-facebook-phones-first-press-shots

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