HTC May Be Taking Another Swipe at a Facebook Phone

A day after Facebook announced a mobile-centric makeover of its News Feed, rumors have resurfaced that HTC may be working on a phone that features special integration with the social network. The spark for speculation is the Friday publication on the Web of the device’s specifications.

The smartphone is reportedly named the HTC Myst, with a possible U.S. launch set for the spring.

Reports of the Myst join a long line of rumored and actual smartphones with Facebook integration. HTC has been here before, launching the ChaCha — later rebranded as the Status — in summer 2011. That phone sported a button with the Facebook logo for direct access to the social network.

UK-based INQ launched the Cloud Touch and Cloud Q phones in late 2011; the Android OS on those phones offered several paths to the social network from the home screen.

Neither the INQ nor the HTC phones posed sales challenges to the iPhone and Samsung smartphones, and Facebook soon started paying more attention to improving its mobile device app.

“We don’t comment on rumors or speculation,” Facebook said in a statement provided to TechNewsWorld by Ulysses King of The Outcast Agency.

The Myst’s Listed Specs

Specs for the Myst #UL, which is apparently the HTC Myst’s proper appellation, were first leaked last month, but Friday’s reports listed more details.

The device’s processor will be a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 system on a chip instead of the MSM8930 Snapdragon previously reported.

The smartphone will apparently have a 4.3-inch 720p display with a pixel density of 320 PPI and front and rear cameras rated at 5 MP and 1.6 MP, respectively. It will reportedly run Android Jelly Bean, and will come preloaded with the Facebook app, Facebook Messenger and Instagram.

The Myst #UL will reportedly support Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 a/b/g/n, WiFi, LTE and Category 14 High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA). Category 14 HSDPA offers a maximum data rate of 21.1 Mbits/sec.

“HTC does not comment on rumors and/or speculations,” the company said in a statement provided to TechNewsWorld by Elena Caldwell of Waggener Edstrom Worldwide.

From Buffy to Opera

In November 2011, Facebook reportedly tapped HTC to build a smartphone with the social media network integrated into the device, code-named “Buffy.” It was supposed to run on a version of Android that had been heavily modified by Facebook to deeply integrate its services and to support HTML5.

The project had been in the works for two years and was led at the time by Facebook’s then-chief technology officer Bret Taylor.

This news was followed by a report in November 2012 that Facebook had picked HTC to manufacturer a smartphone tied to the social network. This device was to be called the HTC Opera UL. However, the project had been delayed.

What’s In It for HTC?

HTC may be looking to stand out from the smartphone pack by manufacturing a branded Facebook phone, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“HTC is in trouble, they haven’t had one really breakout phone from the standpoint of sales in a while, and they need something to give them an edge,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld. “I think they are thinking social media may be something that can be done better, but the strategy is likely born of desperation.”

The manufacturer’s reason for possible involvement with a Facebook phone “may be the same reason Nokia did a Windows phone: Because a sponsor is paying them to do it,” Carl Howe, a vice president of research at the Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld. “It is an ad-network supported phone with exactly one advertising network: Facebook’s.”

Facebook’s mobile ad revenues nearly doubled in the fourth quarter, accounting for 23 percent of its total ad revenue compared to 14 percent in the previous quarter. Ad revenue for the quarter totaled $1.33 billion.

Other benefits for HTC: Facebook would help promote the device, and it “might anticipate features that Facebook hasn’t yet released,” said Enderle.

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