Facebook HTC Phone Revealed? - InformationWeek

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4/1/2013
06:15 PM
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Facebook HTC Phone Revealed?

Software code from a purported Facebook/HTC phone points to an Android home screen takeover.

 Facebook's Futuristic Data Center: Inside Tour
Facebook's Futuristic Data Center: Inside Tour
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Facebook has invited the press to "Come See Our New Home On Android" on Thursday, April 4th, at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. That "home" appears to be a home screen Facebook app that will be offered on a HTC Myst mobile phone and as a Google Play download for other Android devices.

Android Police, an Android news website, has obtained what it claims is a system dump from the as-yet-unannounced Facebook phone. By dissecting the data, writer Ron Amadeo has determined that Facebook is working on a souped-up version of the current Facebook mobile app that will act as home screen application and application launcher.

Android home screen applications run when you press the "Home" button. They function as the Android equivalent of a computer desktop and provide the UI to launch other applications. By developing its own home screen app, Facebook appears to be aiming to become the primary interface for social activity on Android devices.

[ Will Google find this move amusing? Read 12 Google April Fool's Day Jokes. ]

According to the Android Police report, Facebook's modified mobile app, dubbed "wakizashi" (its current mobile app is designated with another Japanese blade name, "katana"), requires device permissions that go beyond what a typical Android app might require. The app demands the ability to launch immediately after the phone boots, to spawn windows that remain visible atop other windows (the sort of thing a company would want for ads), to disable the device's lock screen, to identify active apps, to control the device's WiFi state and to alter system settings.

The build properties file identified by Android Police reveals an HTC phone designated "Myst_UL" that's very similar to the HTC Sense 4.5. It sports a Qualcomm dual-core Snapdragon chipset (MSM8960), with 1 GB of RAM, 5-MP rear/1.6-MP front cameras, a 4.3-inch screen and Android 4.1.2 "Jelly Bean."

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

In a conference call for investors last July, CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested that Facebook's mobile app is the most popular app on the leading mobile platforms and that, as a result, the company was unlikely to go all the way and build its own phone. "There are a lot of things that you can build in other operating systems as well that aren't really taking -- that aren't really like building out a whole phone, which I think wouldn't really make much sense for us to do," he said.

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