Facebook's head of messaging says the company "probably" won't make its own phone again after the first one failed to gain consumer interest.
Shara TibkenFormer managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
HALF MOON BAY, Calif. -- Facebook Phone version 2.0 appears to be a no-go.
The social-networking giant will "probably not" be making another smartphone after the failure of its first attempt two years ago, said David Marcus, Facebook's vice president of messaging products. The revelation came Thursday during the Code Mobile technology conference here.
Facebook and handset partner HTC introduced the HTC First , also known as the "Facebook phone," in April 2013. The $99 device was preloaded with Facebook Home, a social-networking software package that turned the device's home and lock screens into Facebook-only zones. But consumers weren't interested in the device, and AT&T slashed its price to 99 cents just a month after it hit the market.
Marcus said Thursday that 25 percent of time spent on a mobile device happens through one of Facebook's apps, which include Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram.
"People spend a lot of time using Facebook products on their smartphones," Marcus said. "We build partnerships and have relationships with all the mobile operators around the world."
Marcus, the former president of PayPal, has become a key figure at Facebook since joining last year. He's headed up the company's text-messaging project, managing teams developing the company's Messenger app.
"It does different things from the [other virtual assistants] you can find in the marketplace now," Marcus said Thursday. "It can book a hotel on your behalf. It can book flights. ... It's very early days, [but] right now it shows some promise."
Marcus on Thursday said that separating Messaging and the regular Facebook service was "absolutely the right decision."
"Messaging on Facebook is so much better now that we've split the capabilities," he said. Messaging "needs to be autonomous enough so people don't think of Messenger [as serving] the sole purpose of messaging your Facebook friends."
Marcus noted that many people sign up for Messenger without having a Facebook account. In the coming months, the company's Messenger effort will focus on ways to make it easier to privately share photos with friends rather than posting them on a news feed. Facebook also wants to make "Messenger a first-class messaging client and make it very fast so people start using it as their primary messaging platform," he said.
Meanwhile, Marcus said Facebook doesn't want to become a player in payments despite steps it's taken to smooth purchasing for users.
"We're working on removing a lot of that friction," he said. But the "intention is not to build a payments business. We don't want to make money off of payments."