HTC Facebook phones set for debut next month, running Android

HTC will unveil two new smart phones running Android with some fun new Facebook features next month, according to reports, but a Facebook exec has denied they'll be Facebook-branded.

HTC is tipped to launch two Facebook phones at Mobile World Congress next month, putting your social feeds and contacts at the heart of the Android -powered handsets.

UK newspaper City A.M. broke the news, claiming the two devices will be fully Facebook-branded, with status updates and messages pushed to their home screens. The phones will also let you call and email friends from their Facebook pages.

The report claims that Facebook's former iPhone app developer, Joe Hewitt, has been heavily involved in the project. The social network has constantly dismissed claims that it's making its own Facebook phone, but has made no secret of its desire to tie its service more deeply into manufacturers' handsets.

It's already happening. Facebook is baked right into Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 operating system, while Sony Ericsson announced earlier this week that it will be using Facebook's single sign-on technology in its phones. That means users will sign into Facebook once on those handsets, and then be automatically logged in for any app or game that uses the Facebook Connect service.

City A.M. isn't the only purveyor of hot Facebook-phone gossip this morning. Boy Genius Report has received information from a tipster who claims to have taken part in a focus group concerning another Facebook-focused handset.

The discussions of the focus group apparently revolved around features such as 'location-aware coupons' -- discount vouchers that are pushed to your phone when you pass shops that offer goods in your pre-determined areas of interest.

Other features mentioned include the handset sharing your location with friends automatically; contacts, photos and other data being stored in the cloud rather than on the phone; and a single inbox for email, texts and social messages.

It's something of a leap to assume that a focus-group meeting means a product will be ready to hit the shelves soon. But we suspect Facebook is going to be a major theme of Mobile World Congress.

Update: A Facebook exec has moved to calm the speculation at a company event in London. "This is really just another example of a manufacturer who has taken our public APIs (application programing interfaces) and integrated them into their device in an interesting way," said Dan Rose, head of business development at the social network, Reuters reports.

So we should be looking for some swizzy new Facebook functionality from HTC's new phones this year, but not the mythical Facebook Phone . When asked if these new HTCs would be Facebook-branded, Rose replied with a curt, "No."

 

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