By Brynmor Pattison
Rumour has it that Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has been working these past few months on an exclusive ‘Facebook phone’ to rival the iPhone’s ubiquitous presence on the market.
On Thursday, Zuckerberg appeared to deny the existence and development of the phone, nicknamed ‘Buffy’ after TV’s famous vampire slayer, in a meeting to discuss the social media giant’s first quarterly earnings as a public company.
Zuckerberg stated that building a Facebook phone “wouldn’t really make much sense for us to do”, adding that the company wanted to “increase the depth of experience” for the mobile market “in addition to just growing users”. He recalled the fact that Facebook is to be integrated with the iOS platform, following in Twitter’s footsteps. This would essentially ensure that every phone out there has the capability to be a ‘Facebook phone’.
His statement, though it would appear to quash the idea of the device, does not allay the suspicion surrounding Facebook’s partnership with Taiwanese firm HTC, which produces smartphones. Zuckerberg himself stated in the conference, on being asked if the company was building its own phone, that “we thought a lot about this question… we want to not just have apps that people use, but also be kind of as deeply integrated into these systems as possible.”
HTC already produce phones that allow the user to access Facebook at the touch of a button and Facebook is already available on all platforms, with the user base growing by 67% over the last year, so the idea is that a Facebook-exclusive phone is the next logical step for both companies.
Producing their own phone would allow the social media company to charm shareholders and marketers, assuage concerns about the company’s shares and tap in to the advertising market on mobile devices. Such a package would allow users to play Zynga games like Farmville directly from the app, which is currently a separate issue on other platforms.
Facebook’s stock has fallen 29% since going public in May, according to the latest figures from Thursday. However, the company did generate billions of dollars from the flotation, allowing it to push through a potential project such as this phone. In May, the New York Times reported that Facebook had hired at least half a dozen former Apple engineers to work on the project, so the possibility is that some sort of project like this is under way; however, nothing is concrete at the moment.
But what is the public’s view on such a project? Christopher Lawless, a programming student from Dublin, says that he “wouldn’t trust a Facebook phone, given what they already do with the scraps of information I give them. The rumours don’t surprise me; Facebook is already trying to push itself further into our lives.”
Rita-Marie Lawlor, a photographer from Dublin, says that she can “see how it would definitely fit a certain age group – perhaps 18-22. Facebook is already popular enough as it is, a phone such as this would only serve to increase that popularity.”
There have already been multiple analyses of Zuckerberg’s words about an exclusive Facebook phone – it seems as though we will have to wait for the company’s next move on whether ‘Buffy’ will slay all comers.
Image: Wikimedia Commons