Tracking the rumor that just won't die: The Facebook phone

This urban legend is alive and well, despite regular denials. Here, we've rounded up the rumors from the past two-and-a-half years.

James Martin/CNET

Facebook executives love to do verbal tap dances around the idea of a phone. It's been going on for years: reports, denials, reports, denials. And now, just two months after a categorical denial from CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself, it seems that at its event next week, Facebook may well go ahead and release what arguably amounts to a Facebook phone.

OK, it's not really a Facebook phone that Facebook watchers are expecting. But this time, it's undeniably something phone related. The social network on Thursday sent out media invitations to "Come See Our New Home on Android." And so the speculation has begun anew.

So what will we see? Probably something far more practical than an actual Facebook phone, at least the kind Zuckerberg has so often denied. Facebook will likely announce a way for handset makers, starting with HTC, to tweak the Android operating system to make the social network a deeper part of the experience. Think Facebook integration to the core, with the social network's collection of apps -- Camera, Poke, Messenger -- featured front and center. At the very least, we should get iOS-like Android integration features for logging in once, syncing contacts, sharing seamlessly, and so on.

This device-to-be has been a long time coming, whatever it turns how to be, and it's made for lots of juicy speculation. Which is why we put together this timeline of reports, rumors, and denials surrounding the mythical Facebook phone.

September 19, 2010: The Facebook Phone is born. Michael Arrington reports for TechCrunch that the social network is working on a top secret project to build software that powers a smartphone. The same day, Facebook says: no way, Jose (or Michael, rather). "Building phones is just not what we do."

November 3, 2010: Zuckerberg officially bursts the phone bubble -- but just the hardware part. He leaves the door open for a software play. "First of all, we're not a hardware company," he says. "Second of all, our goal is not to sell anything physical; our goal is to make it so that everything can be social."

January 26, 2011: A partner surfaces. Rumor has it that HTC is making two Facebook-branded smartphones.

The HTC Status is the country's first-ever "Facebook phone." A dedicated Facebook button makes it easier to post status updates. Josh Miller/CNET

February 15, 2011: HTC unveils the ChaCha and Salsa , both have Facebook buttons for easy access to the social network. So this is the "Facebook phone"? What a letdown. A few months later, ChaCha rebrands as the HTC Status in the U.S. But where, oh where, is Update?

November 21, 2011: Forget that stupid Facebook button, a real phone, made by HTC, running a Facebook-modified version of Android, is 12 to 18 phones away from hitting the market, AllThingsD's Liz Gannes and Ina Fried report. The project is code-named Buffy, after the sexy vampire slayer.

April 25, 2012: Buffy lives, despite reports to the contrary.

May 27, 2012: The New York Times says Facebook is recruiting heavily from Apple and stocking up on hardware engineers to prepare for the release of its own smartphone in the next year.

July 25, 2012: What do you know? HTC's name comes up again, but this time Facebook and the handset manufacturer are said to be targeting a mid-2013 release for a phone.

July 26, 2012: Phone? What Phone? There's no phone, Zuckerberg insists, because it wouldn't make any sense .

September 11, 2012: Zuckerberg sucks the life out of the phone rumors -- again. This phone stuff is all a bunch of nonsense .

November 2, 2012: Not so fast! More HTC-Facebook-Android rumors surface. This time, though, Pocket-lint says the "official" device has a code name of Opera UL.

January 12, 2013: MG Siegler is the boy who cried wolf. He reports that some type of Facebook Phone will be on display at a January 15 press event. Instead, Facebook announces Graph Search.

The Myst-erious Facebook Phone? Unwired View

January 30, 2013: Zuckerberg is adamant: Facebook is not building a phone . But when Zuck closes a door, he opens a window. "Rather than just building an app that's a version of the functionality that you have today, I think making it so that we can...go deeper and deeper...is going to be a big focus for us." OK dude, I think we get it now. You're starting to sound like a broken record.

March 8, 2013: Wait. Never mind. Meet the real "Facebook phone": The HTC Myst, Unwired View tells us, while also leaking the device's specs. The Myst-erious smartphone is apparently getting pre-installed Facebook apps. Sounds so much cooler than a button. Or does it?

A Facebook-driven smartphone like this may just be urban legend. Ubergizmo
March 28 and 29, 2013: Facebook says, "Come See Our New Home on Android," and a variety of reports pop up. The New York Times says the social network will show off an HTC phone running a version of Android tweaked to make Facebook's camera and messaging apps core to the experience. The Wall Street Journal reports that the software in question can run on other handsets and that Facebook is talking with other device makers.

 

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