Summary:

If 2011 was the year that Android came into its own at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, it may also have been the year that we started to…

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If 2011 was the year that Android came into its own at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, it may also have been the year that we started to get a glimpse of the next big player in the space. Not only did two handset makers give us their distinct versions of a “Facebook smartphone”, but security vendor Gemalto has now integrated Facebook access directly onto a SIM.

The new Facebook service, says Gemalto’s SVP of telecoms Jean-Francois Schreiber, will mean that even the most basic of phones will have access to Facebook services, and it will be able to work on the most basic of networks — as long as the operator uses a SIM-based service (in other words, that essentially means it’s aimed at GSM vendors).

That will also mean that it is very pared-down: no photos, no games, and certainly none of the new services Facebook is now integrating into smartphone apps, such as its recently launched Deals service.

Instead, the SIM-based Facebook service is very much aimed at giving more basic phone users their very first mobile Facebook experience — status updates, messages to Friends and other text-based services — although Schreiber does point out that there is the capability to upgrade what is on the SIM to include any and all of the more enhanced services, so potentially this could go significantly farther.

He also tells us that Gemalto is close to announcing a deal for its first customer — a “major” mobile operator in Latin America.

Like the two phones from INQ and HTC that were launched in the last week, Gemalto is taking advantage of Facebook APIs for this service. He points out that Facebook cooperated, but like the other two services, it’s not Facebook-led. A crowdsourced development of the Facebook mobile phone OS, if you will.

Video below.

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