Total Pageviews

Friday, March 29, 2013

Facebook to Introduce Its Own Flavor of Android for Smartphones

Facebook next week will introduce a special version of Google’s Android software system modified to put the social network front and center on a smartphone. The software will debut on a handset made by HTC, said a Facebook employee who has been briefed on the product.

Facebook on Thursday evening sent invitations to members of the media for an event on April 4 at its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. A person who works at Facebook, but asked not be named because he was not authorized to talk about the company’s plans, said the company would introduce a version of Android that makes Facebook’s software more prominent.

For instance, when the device is turned on, it will immediately display a Facebook user’s home screen, the source said, a fact earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal. Facebook’s camera and messaging apps will be the default apps for the core functions of the phone, the Facebook employee also said.

Derick Mains, a Facebook spokesman declined to comment on what would be unveiled at the event. But he said it would be a “significant mobile-focused announcement.”

The Facebook employee said that the company’s portfolio of mobile apps has been the vanguard of the Android-based Facebook operating system. Over the past two and a half years Facebook has been creating standalone mobile applications. For example, this year the company introduced Poke, a private messaging app as a standalone app. Last year, it released a camera app that specialized in tagging and uploading photos to Facebook. And in 2011, it introduced Messenger, an app for free text messaging, which was later expanded to include free voice calls.

Amazon has also modified Android, for its Kindle Fire tablets.

Facebook has been exploring making its own smartphone for the past two years, but the project, which was codenamed “Buffy,” kept stalling internally as the company could not determine whether to make its own hardware or partner with a phone maker.

Facebook has recruited engineers who specialized in mobile phone development, including former Apple engineers who worked on the development of the Apple iPhone.