Facebook has not approached anything resembling a confirmation of the reports that it is developing its own phone with HTC, code-named “Buffy“, but it seems that insiders’ chins have begun to wag anyway. The latest detail: how the phone will look.
The phone’s user interface, apparently, will appear an awful lot like the social network’s newest version of its iPhone and iPad app, according to a report in Business Insider, citing a source close to Facebook’s mobile team.
That source said he was “stunned” by how closely the mock-up he’d seen for Buffy resembled the iPhone app, with a screen that lets a user slide to the left to reveal navigation features. That hidden menu may have additional options included in a full-out phone, such as the ability to call and chat to contacts.
That iOS app is the closest yet that Facebook has come to being fully functional on a mobile phone. While past versions have limited users to status updates, messages and uploading and commenting on your own and others’ pictures, now users are able to play games, use apps, use bookmarks as you would on the internet version; make full searches; and generally navigate better across the network.
As Business Insider points out, it’s not too surprising that Facebook would model a potential device on the look of the app: the company is generally trying to get its design more unified and consistent across different screens.
This won’t be Facebook’s first foray into an all-out mobile platform, however: Buffy is reportedly based on Android — which will presumably be forked to be almost unrecognizable as such, similar to Amazon’s work on the Kindle Fire.
And how will it look on the outside? Perhaps a clue by way of past efforts from Facebook and HTC, which have been collaborating well before the emergence of Buffy. The two “Facebook phones” that came out earlier this year, the Salsa and the ChaCha (Status in the U.S., pictured), took contrasting approaches, with the Salsa going all-touchscreen and the ChaCha offering a BlackBerry-style keyboard and form factor.
HTC was the social network’s first partner for a “Facebook phone,” which used Facebook APIs and was made with the company’s blessing. The key feature was a hot key designed to let people post to Facebook from whatever else they are doing with the device, along with other social integration across other features like the contacts book. Soon after Hutchison-owned iNQ also developed a device that also integrated Facebook in the same way; and more recently French handset maker Sagem has now done the same on a low-cost device that will be sold by Orange in Europe and Africa.
As we have written before, these phones all seemed like an obvious halfway step for Facebook to make en route to a more fully-fledged Facebook mobiles — which you could imagine might be made one day with more than just HTC.
On the HTC devices alone, there may have been some question marks over how well these devices have been selling, but overall HTC is probably an effective first partner.
It may be seeing some flatter forecasts in its immediate future, but HTC has raised its profile enough to become the most-popular smartphone maker in the U.S. according to Strategy Analytics (based on number of devices shipped).
That will only help Buffy work its magic on a market that’s always on the hunt for the next big thing.