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Why would Facebook design a phone?

Would a Facebook phone be successful?
With its new platform, Facebook aims to create a new kind of experience for social networking on mobile phones.
With its new platform, Facebook aims to create a new kind of experience for social networking on mobile phones.

As mentioned earlier in this article, Facebook has more than 500 million active users, 250 million people checking in daily and 150 million using Facebook on mobile devices. That's a lot of social networking! If all of the 150 million mobile users are checking in daily, they make up 60 percent of that daily total.

Phone manufacturers have already capitalized on this market. Facebook has produced successful mobile applications for Apple, Blackberry and Android devices. Apple even uses Facebook in its iPhone commercials. Phone manufacturer INQ Mobile has taken a bold step further, producing phones targeted to mobile social networking with Facebook as one of its featured applications.

The success of INQ and of Facebook mobile applications implies that mobile social networking is a big market and will continue to grow. Facebook's platform aims to integrate social networking in everything users do on the phone, not just their direct use of Facebook. Can this deeper level of integration be successful?

The success of other mobile social networking applications implies the answer is "yes." For example, there are dozens of applications for Twitter, and Twitter's short message format makes the mobile experience like sending a text message to the world. Plus, applications like Foursquare and Yelp turned mobility itself into a social experience. If Facebook is able to integrate the phone's basic functions with applications like these, it could make Facebook the front page for all other social networking experiences.

Facebook could run into some possible pitfalls with its platform, though. One is that the social networking site is notorious for privacy issues. If you're suspicious about your privacy on Facebook by itself, you're not likely going to buy a phone that could potentially expose your contacts and whereabouts to the world.

Another possible pitfall is that the Facebook platform doesn't offer a new-enough Facebook experience. Facebook applications are already available for many Internet-capable hand-held devices. Plus, there are other applications that use Facebook's application programming interface (API) to post things to Facebook for users automatically. Some contact manager applications for phones are already integrating social networking. For a Facebook platform to be successful, then, it must provide a new and useful experience for the user.

For now, it's a difficult call. Facebook could find just the right combination of features and message to become a big success in the mobile market. If not, it could fall the way of projects like the Palm Pre and the Microsoft Kin. Head over to the next page for lots more information about the Facebook phone.