Internet Social Media

Why The World Doesn’t Need A Facebook Phone [Opinion]

Christian Cawley 08-06-2012

Over the past year or so, rumours have continued to surface concerning the idea of a Facebook phone, a portable handset that will give the user direct mobile access to the popular social network.


The idea is simple – from the comfort of your Facebook phone you’ll be able to upload photos, send messages, and even play games. Of course, none of this is particularly different from the experience available on a standard smartphone with a Facebook app installed.

So how exactly does Facebook hope to develop a phone that it can sell and differentiate the mobile experience from those already available? And more to the point, why?

Facebook’s Mobile Model

Like many dotcom-era businesses, Facebook has an unusual way of making money. It could be argued that the service simply grew too quickly, with revenue generated from advertising going a long way to proving that the service can be profitable. Certainly the unprecedented glee with which users have provided personal information enables a unique approach to advertising – one that Google can only dream of.

Why The World Doesn't Need A Facebook Phone [Opinion] muo fb phone

But recent figures have indicated that users are becoming increasingly bored by Facebook. Throughout 2011, various news outlets ran stories highlighting an apparent decline in the number of users actively using Facebook. Currently the network lists over 900 million active users, although what constitutes “active” is unclear. Growth continues, but it is greatly reduced, indicating that a saturation point might have been reached.


In addition to the habit of opening Facebook in a browser and spending an hour or more engaged in social networking becoming an experience that many don’t choose to enjoy every day, many still using Facebook are doing so from mobile phones, using apps that don’t display adverts. No ads means no money, and without this income, Facebook looks increasingly fragile – as if the rumours of an inflated share price weren’t enough!

Trust Issues

More and more users are also taking time away from Facebook due to concerns with privacy and general issues of trust. As we find more and more companies finding ways to communicate with us with increasingly intrusive methods it is quite understandable that – rightly or wrongly – people will follow this back to companies like Facebook and Google.

Therefore there is already a segment of users who will steer clear of such a device, even if their own phone already has a Facebook app, simply because of this poor reputation.

Tackling the Missing Mobile Money

In order to generate income for their service, advertisers use Facebook to identify their target audience and display promotional messages that users might be interested in. It’s a system that works extremely well in a web browser – less so on a mobile phone.


Mobile users typically use apps to access web services rather than hope that all of the functionality of a website will work in the browser. So no adverts means no money for Facebook from mobile apps.

So what are the options for Mark Zuckerberg and his developers?

  1. Sell mobile apps: the notion of paid apps is one that many mobile users tend to avoid unless they feel they’re getting special features. Paid apps for popular websites are not generally popular, although by incorporating the facility to run a fully featured Facebook experience, games and all, a paid app might prove popular.
  2. Buy Zynga, sell games: one of the most popular uses for Facebook is social gaming, Zynga has a long-term arrangement to deliver games exclusively to the social network. Rather than invest in developing software and hardware for a mobile device buying the games house and selling Facebook games as mobile apps – perhaps with some free credit – would be popular.
  3. Charge membership for advanced features: if a mobile app isn’t expected to have adverts, why not use the tactic that many other app developers employ? Facebook could issue an ad-supported mobile app with the option to upgrade or pay a small membership fee to use an ad-free app.
  4. Branch out into mobile phones: it doesn’t seem like the most obvious leap from the other options, but this is what Facebook is seriously considering. But what about the competition?

The Facebook Phone vs The Facebook Phones

Why The World Doesn't Need A Facebook Phone [Opinion] muo fb phone profile

Since the arrival of Windows Phone in 2010, smartphone platforms have sought to become more and more socially integrated. Android and iOS have both followed Windows Phone’s lead in attempting to embrace Facebook more completely, creating a truly mobile social experience. But isn’t this what the Facebook Phone is all about?


Facebook has been hiring developers and software engineers who were involved with the design of the iPhone in the hope of being able to produce a popular alternative that will appeal to users.

According to the New York Times, Mark Zuckerberg is “worried that if he doesn’t create a mobile phone in the near future… Facebook will simply become an app on other mobile platforms”. Which sort of misses the point, doesn’t it? Facebook is fun to use and has proved useful in reuniting people from all walks of life.

But it isn’t the amazing, all-encompassing social experience that it proclaims itself to be. You can share photos, even video chat and play games along with the usual status updates and chats; yet none of this deserves to be given its own phone when there are plenty of apps (native and third party) that offer these things to mobile users.

Mobile Devices Are “Deeply Social”

This whole Facebook Phone situation is – in my opinion – nonsense, yet another case of someone coming up with an idea and then finding poorly researched data and buzzword statements to present a case, however weak. We see it more and more in politics, but to observe it in a company that has just floated on the stock exchange is fascinating and should certainly be cause for concern among the shareholders.


Why The World Doesn't Need A Facebook Phone [Opinion] muo fb phone social

Facebook’s mobile strategy is, according to them, quite straightforward: “Our mobile strategy is simple: we think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social.”

Call me old fashioned, but you can’t get more social than a device with which you can speak to other people on. Unless the Facebook Phone comes with Star Wars style 3D holographic projections and a small teleporting device for sharing physical items it simply isn’t going to be any more social than Windows Phone, Android or iOS. In which case, the platform will fail – perhaps before it even launches.

What do you think? Will you be buying a Facebook Phone? Do you still use Facebook?

Image Credit: Personal Notebook via Shutterstock | Four People on Phones via Shutterstock

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  1. shaurya boogie
    June 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    No you dont need do spend on a facebook phone. You can buy a smartphone with a good facebook app.

  2. Prakash Senapati
    June 11, 2012 at 6:07 am

    mobile phones
    "smart phone"
    are already “Deeply Social”
    cant think of a reason to buy a phone based on social networking
    when glam models like samsung s3 ,htc one x,lg, lumia, "i phone"
    are performing so good
    why buy a fb phone??????

  3. slywlf
    June 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Since I don't have any sort of "smart" phone, and see no reason for one, I certainly would have zero interest in a FB phone. Then again I have been precipitously losing interest in FB anyway. The only reason I maintain the account is for ease of contact with a few far-flung family and friends - real friends - not FB "friends". Just as a test I took a two week sabbatical from FB recently when it occurred to me that I was spending more time there and enjoying it less. Once the allotted time had elapsed I found the habit had been broken. If I spend an hour a week there now it's a busy week. So an FB phone is strictly off my radar.
    As for the revenue issue - I have AdBlocker on when I do log in (I do not have it set to keep me logged in - privacy issues with both FB and Google, so I don't stay logged on for any length of time, and I use Ghostery at all times). My interest was already waning even before the over-hyped IPO and the news that Zuckerberg had renounced his US citizenship to avoid taxes. It is now only a matter of time before I go back to simply phone, email and sharing pictures by Flickr - they still work just fine!

  4. Krzysztof Buzko
    June 9, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Facebook, Facebook, Facebook... Everywhere Facebook... isn't it a little bit too much ? Facebook on PC, on Mobile, on Tablet, and you never know what information it gathers...

  5. Terafall
    June 9, 2012 at 9:52 am

    I don't think Facebook will last long.Since Timeline,many people has started using Google+,even though Google has a privacy issue.Not to mention Microsoft will launch which is hazardous to Facebook

  6. Paul Werner
    June 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Nice, now we need a follow-up article about why the world doesn't even need Facebook now that G+ is in full swing

    • beth
      June 9, 2012 at 9:46 am

      It isn't called "The ME Generation" for nothing. Does fascination with oneself die of boredom eventually?

      • Paul Werner
        June 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm

        Good point. I guess that'll be the fate for a lot of ME Generation people. One they are finally are bored they will die off... bittersweet

  7. Scutterman
    June 8, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    According to several posts I've read on the facebook engineering blog, their metric for determining an active user is one who logs in at least once a month.

    I don't think a facebook phone would work. The only advantage it could give over standard smartphones would be a free data connection that can be used for posting and uploading to facebook, but enough people have inclusive data allowances now that it won't have much of an effect

    • Tanguy Djokovic
      June 12, 2012 at 5:17 am

      that's mostly true in the US, but in different part of the world it is not the case, for example in Europe you can have 4h of discution and unlimited text for 10$ but no internet, so allowing free internet to connect to FB would (might) work there.

      Though don't count on me to buy it :)

      • Scutterman
        June 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm

        In the UK it's mainly the same as in the US. I can see how some countries in Europe are different, but they are likely to be countries where the Facebook Phone has different contracts because FB can't get cheap data rates either.