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The Mythical Facebook Phone Surfaces, Still A Long Way From Best Buy

Facebook really is working on its own mobile phone, according to a report from AllThingsD, after years of speculation about such a project. The Great Blue Whale of the mobile world is said to be under construction by HTC but an astounding 12 to 18 months away from launching, an eternity in a world that moves this fast.

We had thought we had settled this last year, when Facebook was said time and time again to be working on its own phone before CEO Mark Zuckerberg eventually squashed much of the speculation, which further died down after a few “Facebook phones” were released that were just garden-variety low-end smartphones with a dedicated blue button for Facebook access. But AllThingsD reports that the Facebook-branded phone is a real thing, based on a heavily customized version of Android that would likely feature a user interface heavy on Facebook features, such as its messaging software and content links.

As discussed over the weekend with regard to the possible Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) phone, one can understand why media companies and others not known for hardware prowess might want to deliver their own phone. Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) are the most powerful companies in mobile software at the moment and each has their own array of favored software and services to promote on iOS and Android, respectively. Companies that are concerned about being squeezed out of the mobile picture because they conflict with Apple or Google’s goals may seek to chart their own course.

However, it’s a little harder to understand why these companies think they can actually pull off the feat of designing, building, maintaining, and promoting their own mobile phone in a fiercely competitive landscape. And the notion that these phones are walled gardens subject to the whims of their creators won’t be as relevant should mobile HTML5 applications take hold, which is apparently what Facebook wants to put at the heart of its phone, according to the report.

It’s not all that surprising that Facebook would consider this course of action as a way of reminding mobile OS vendors of its potential, but it will be more surprising if such a phone ever makes it to the market. After all, how many people really want to buy a phone that might just be geared around sharing everything you do on that phone with your Facebook crowd? There’s a reason that some things are mere apps.