Anyone interested in getting their hands on a Facebook phone — a Nokia handset optimised for use with the social network? Better get a plane ticket and a passport.
That’s because Nokia’s reported tie-up with Facebook is only going to be relevant to mobile users out of the U.S. That’s because no matter what kind of deal Nokia strikes with Facebook, in the U.S. it’s carriers — not device makers — that decide what goes on a phone’s “home” screen. And the carriers’ first instinct is to cut their own deals to fill that space — usually with money-makers like links to ringtone stores, etc., not third-party Web sites.
This is precisely why Yahoo’s mobile Web app, “Go,” hasn’t gotten much distribution in the U.S. While Yahoo! has deals to ship the software on phones by Motorola, LG, Samsung, and Nokia, U.S. carriers remove the software from their phones before they go on sale.
To be sure, this isn’t always the case. Apple, not U.S. carrier partner AT&T, gets to decide what goes on the iPhone — like a mobile YouTube app from Google, versus a link to an AT&T mobile video portal, and iTunes ringtones versus AT&T ringtones. But with a U.S. market share below 10% — and no iPhone — Nokia doesn’t have much say in what goes on its phones here.
This deal does makes a lot more sense in Europe and other GSM-dominated markets, where Nokia has higher market share and better distribution, and where people are more likely to buy unlocked phones, complete with whatever apps the phone maker loads on them.
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