Facebook and HTC are reportedly set to launch a device this week which will feature a tweaked Android experience dominated by the social networking service, with the likelihood being that this modified UI will also be made available to users of other Android devices.
At start-up, devices will launch a new home screen, called Facebook Home, which will offer tight integration with content from the service. Facebook’s camera, message and contact information will also be placed front-and-centre, replacing the standard Android apps.
It will debut on an HTC-made smartphone, apparently called HTC First. This will have a mid-tier feature set, running Android 4.1.2 with HTC’s Sense 4.5 customisation, and featuring a 4.3-inch display, dual core Qualcomm processor, and 5 megapixel camera.
While it has long been rumoured that Facebook was planning its own hardware, there have also been many arguments why this would not make sense – not least that the company already has a significant presence in the mobile space without the not inconsiderable overheads associated with a hardware proposition.
By providing a downloadable app which turns existing Android devices into Facebook-oriented phones, the company can extend its presence for devotees of the service, without the risks associated with hardware production. For casual Facebook users, the standard app is likely to remain the preferred option.
In addition, by not straying too far from the core Android proposition, Facebook will not need to build its own content and apps ecosystem, as Amazon has done with its Kindle Fire fork. While Facebook has its own developer and apps effort which has grown from its desktop proposition, it is sensible for the company to exploit the existing Android portfolio at least to start with.
Android Police said that an inspection of the Facebook Home installer files indicate that it will also work on devices using Samsung’s TouchWiz Android customisation, highlighting that Facebook’s plan goes beyond HTC-made hardware.
For HTC, the ailing smartphone maker will be on the receiving end of the publicity surrounding Facebook’s mobile device play, while only needing to deliver a modified Android device – and the HTC First hardware is nothing out-of-the-ordinary.
HTC has offered Facebook-focused devices in the past, unveiling two devices in 2011 which included a dedicated button linking to the social network.