By now it’s no secret that Facebook is actively working on its own smartphone.
But thanks to the company’s recent IPO filing, we have a better idea why.
One of the major risks to its business, Facebook says, is that it is subject to control from smartphone makers. For example, Google already limits deep Facebook integration in some versions of Android. There’s nothing keeping Apple and others from doing the same.
As a result, it’s in Facebook’s best interest to maintain control over its mobile platform with its own smartphone.
So what should the Facebook phone have in order to make you choose it over another Android phone or the iPhone? Keep reading to find out.
At first, Facebook reportedly considered giving its phone away for free and making money on advertising instead. After learning that would cost them about $700 per device, Facebook axed that idea.
But if Facebook wants to get enough users on board, it'll have to beat the competition on price too. A sub-$100 price tag (with a contract from your carrier) could be the sweet spot.
Farmville, Words With Friends, Sims Social, etc.: A lot of people use Facebook purely as a channel to play games like these with their online pals. In order to keep those users locked in, Facebook's phone needs to have a way that makes such social gaming just as easy on the go.
Right now, Facebook's smartphone app lets you peruse apps and games. Hopefully that sticks around but with a better interface.
According to various reports, Facebook's phone will be based on Android. That means the thousands and thousands of Android apps that are already in Google's Android Market should work on it. However, it seems like Facebook's smartphone OS will work in a similar manner as Amazon's Kindle Fire OS.
That means it'll be based on Android, but look like an entirely new OS. Based on what we've heard though, it looks like the Facebook phone won't allow access to the official Android Market in favour of its own app store, just like the Kindle Fire does now.
The current rumours about the Facebook phone say that HTC will make the hardware while Facebook makes the software. That's fine, as long as Facebook sticks with one model at a time. If Facebook allows multiple manufacturers to use its OS, then they could quickly run into the same problem Android has now: fragmentation. That ruins the experience by making it difficult for developers to make stuff for several different models.
Unfortunately, it looks like Facebook may decide to let anyone us its OS. Samsung is rumoured to be working on a Facebook handset for launch later this year.
There's been talk about Facebook's top-secret 'Project Spartan' app store for several months now. It's an online app store full of HTML5 web apps that run in your browser instead of the traditional apps you're used to installing on your phone.
Assuming this concept sticks around for Facebook's phone, it's very likely that these web apps will be able to work on any smartphone. That's one way to get around Apple and Google's app store, and it probably makes those two companies nervous.
Right now Facebook doesn't show ads in its mobile apps. It's the same story with Twitter. And Google+.
But it's going to have to happen if Facebook wants to make money off its hundreds of millions of mobile users. Charging cold hard cash for a phone will help, but not everyone is going to do that. Once Facebook does implement ads in its mobile app, we're hoping it finds a way to insert them in your feed without making them annoying. (Think back to Twitter's 'Dickbar' controversy.)
Right now, Facebook's ads on its website aren't so bad. Hopefully it can pull off the same on mobile.
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