Rumor: Facebook Could Build Its Own Phone

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Take it for what it's worth, but TechCrunch put out a story this weekend maintaining that Facebook is building its own phone. It's based on what Michel Arrington says is an inside source and the work of a couple of high-profile mobile developers. Of course, Facebook could just be working on a better Facebook app for current smartphones. Here's Ars Technica's measured summary of the news:

Mobile developers at Facebook are said to be working on a secret project, and that project may be a Facebook phone--despite the company's denial. Two well-known developers at Facebook, Joe Hewitt and Matthew Papakipos, are said to be holed up working on a project that few people have knowledge of, including other Facebook staff. Hewitt is known for his work on Firefox and a web-based "OS" known as Parakey before working for Facebook. There he worked on a mobile version of the website for the iPhone, as well as creating the native iOS client...

[What the devs are working on] doesn't necessarily have to be a Facebook-branded smartphone, however. The team could merely be building advanced apps that have tighter integration with current mobile OSs. In fact, Facebook spokesperson Jaime Schopflin offered that exact explanation behind the rumor Sunday when it denied working on its own phone. "Our approach has always been to make phones and apps more social," she told Mashable. "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."

But a Facebook phone is not in the works, Schopflin said. "[B]uilding phones is just not what we do."

Maybe it's just us, but it's not clear to me that Facebook building a phone matters one way or the other. Are you dying for a Facebook phone? This story has legs because people like seeing titans clash, and Facebook entering the mobile space would certainly cause some unusual battles.

Read the rest of the story at Ars Technica, or read TechCrunch's original piece.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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