In the next year or two (anyone’s guess is valid at this point) Facebook will be releasing a smartphone by HTC according to AllThingsD. Its codename: Buffy.
Nobody can predict the future, but a combination of common sense, reality, and historical precedent point to the probability that a phone that focuses so acutely on Facebook will fail miserably.
Niche phones are niche
The 2nd biggest reason (with the biggest reason being price) that hyped gadgets fail is that they tighten their niche too much. Items like the Zune, HP Touchpad, and Playstation phone put too much emphasis on what they represented to the consumer to be successful. Microsoft has learned this on many occasions and is finally branching out with the Windows Phone to a broader market with realistic expectations and proper pricing. Even then, they are far from being considered a success.
Mobile devices have come to represent a portion of our personality. People get Apple products because they believe what they’re buying is superior and they enjoy how the brand represents them. People buy Google products for similar reasons. They won’t buy a Facebook-branded product thinking that it will be superior and they won’t buy a Facebook product because they think it will make them cool.
Facebook is already on your phone
It will take some magical integration and marketing to convince people that they need a phone that’s built for Facebook. It’s already one of the most popular apps of all time on every platform that supports it. Most of the apps have the functionality they want. What will a Facebook phone offer that the apps do not?
Mobile integration is important in any social network and Facebook has achieved it for the most part. Adding a device into the mix is unnecessary.
It’s too late
In 2010 when the rumors of Facebook building a phone firsts got started, they actually had a chance to make a difference. The smartphone market was hitting a tipping point and there were still tons of people who had never purchased one.
Familiarity breeds trust and people know Facebook. When making their first choice for a smartphone, it’s possible that Facebook could have garnered some buzz and built a community around the phone itself.
It’s too late. Most who will be buying a smartphone in the future will be buying their second, third, or tenth one. They will already be pros at using smartphones by the time Facebook releases its entrant. They won’t go for a Facebook phone just because it has an “F” on it. They’ll go for what they know or what they’ve already heard about – normal Android phones, iPhones, or Windows 8 Phones. Having a Facebook shell over Android OS won’t be compelling.
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Facebook has an opportunity to make a splash in many arenas. They can dominate mobile marketing and attach to apps like crazy. Getting into the hardware side of mobile is bound to be an utter failure.
They used the codename of “Buffy” because they need a vampire slayer. They need a single, extremely-powerful slayer to go up against the horde.
This particular slayer will get sucked dry before driving a single stake into anyone’s heart.