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The Mobile Lowdown 04-07-11: HTC/Nokia; Facebook phone; Televisa/Iusacell

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Our look at some of the big stories today in mobile: HTC passes Nokia (NYSE: NOK) in market cap; the “Facebook phone” launches in the UK; and Mexican media group Televisa makes a big investment in mobile with Isuacell.

HTC: A bit of a milestone for the Taiwanese handset maker. Yesterday, HTC surpassed Nokia for the first time in terms of market capitalization, as it closed trading on a value of $33.8 billion, compared to $33.6 billion for the Finnish handset maker.

Important to note that this is almost more a function of market sentiment than it is of actual sales though:

Bloomberg notes that HTC’s stock has tripled in the last year, as smartphone shipments outpaced that of more basic phones by a factor of two. Meanwhile, Nokia’s share price in the same period has declined by 19 percent.

But at the same time, Nokia has held on to its (admittedly declining) lead in market share: in 2010 it was 28.9 percent (versus 36.4 percent in 2009). In that time it sold — that’s sold, not just shipped — 461 million units, while HTC sold 24.7 million devices. Credit Insights estimates that some 23 percent of Nokia’s total devices sold were smartphones, which works out to over 106 million units. That means Nokia is still selling more than four times the amount of smartphones that HTC is.

The two will be competing even more in the future than they already do — not just because of their converging market positions, but because both will theoretically be developing handsets on the Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) WP7 platform — although it’s been HTC’s Android-based portfolio that has driven its growth more recently.

The new market cap for HTC puts it third behind Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Samsung, in terms of device makers’ market value.

— “Facebook phone“: You have to put it in quotes because Facebook, of course, has yet to release an official phone of its own, replete with branding and its significant marketing muscle behind it.

Instead, this is the launch of the INQ Cloud Touch — one of several new smartphones running on Android closely integrate Facebook into the homescreen and other functions. It’s being sold through Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy initially, and is priced at £300 ($490) or free with two-year contracts with various mobile operators.

Televisa/Iusacell: Reuters is reporting that the Mexican media conglomerate Grupo Televisa is taking the plunge and looking to also become a mobile operator. It is reportedly buying a 50 percent stake in Grupo Iusacell, the mobile operator, for $1.6 billion.

This puts the group even more directly in competition with Carlos Slim, also a media magnate who controls one of the region’s largest mobile operators, America Movil.