Facebook: We're Not 'Building a Phone,' We're Making Phones More Social

Facebook moved quickly Sunday to pour cold water on a report by Techcrunch that the social networking kingpin is building a mobile phone.

"The story, which originated in Techcrunch, is not accurate," a company spokesperson wrote in an email to DailyFinance. "Facebook is not building a phone."

But the spokesperson acknowledged that Facebook is working on what is called "deep integration" for mobile devices. "People want to call it a 'Facebook Phone' because that's such an attractive soundbite, but building phones is just not what we do," the spokesperson said.

Phone or no phone, Facebook's mobile efforts represent an acknowledgment by Zuck and Co. that mobile computing is the future -- a realization Google (GOOG) had years ago, prompting it to buy Android and make it the basis for its mobile efforts. Facebook also seems to understand the key dynamic, pioneered by Apple (AAPL) and later Google, driving the explosion of smartphones -- it's all about the apps.

In May, Erick Tseng, Google's lead project manager for Android, left the search giant for Facebook, to become the social net's head of mobile products.

Facebook's Mobile Move

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Facebook wants to control your social life -- "control" may be a little strong, "mind" or "tend" is probably more accurate. When you're on the move, you communicate with your friends via your mobile device. So it's only natural for Facebook to want to turn its "Friends List" into your mobile contact list. In this respect, Facebook appears to be challenging both Google and Apple, which have made cloud-based contact and calendar management a key aspect of their mobile strategy.

Business Insider's Dan Frommer notes the following tweets from Hewitt which seem to indicate the engineer is working with the Android OS.

* I didn't say Android is horrendous, I said the tools (Eclipse) are, and the OS is ugly (visually). On technical merits Android is great.

* Android tools are horrendous, OS is hideous, but the absence of big brother telling me what to do gives it a slight edge.

* Android fragmentation will hopefully stabilize within two years, and if not, at least people upgrade phones much more often than computers.

* Android dev community needs a quirksmode.org-like site to chart the subtle differences between each device, so we needn't buy every one.

Research In Motion's (RIMM) Blackberry still dominates the fast-growing smartphone market, but it's losing share to Apple and especially Google. Microsoft's share has plummeted, but as a large investor in Facebook, perhaps the Borg could work with the social networking website on a joint effort.

Here's the complete Facebook statement:

The story, which originated in Techcrunch, is not accurate. Facebook is not building a phone. Our approach has always been to make phones and apps more social. Current projects include include everything from an HTML5 version of the site to apps on major platforms to full Connect support with SDKs to deeper integrations with some manufacturers. Our view is that almost all experiences would be better if they were social, so integrating deeply into existing platforms and operating systems is a good way to enable this. For an example, check out Connect for iPhone and the integration we have with contact syncing through our iPhone app. Another example is the INQ1 phone with Facebook integration (the first so-called ³Facebook Phone²). The people mentioned in the story are working on these projects. The bottom line is that whenever we work on a deep integration, people want to call it a "Facebook Phone" because that's such an attractive soundbite, but building phones is just not what we do.