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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

September 23, 2010 at 10:32 AM

A Facebook phone! OMG!!! Oh, wait, it’s Kin 2.0

Tech blogs are apoplectic today over word that Facebook’s working with a Chinese company to develop new phones designed around the social network.

It turns out Facebook is working on a software layer that will run on top of Google’s Android phone software on the phones, which are coming to Europe in the first half of 2011 and the U.S. later in the year, perhaps on AT&T.

Here’s the statement Facebook provided to Bloomberg, which today nailed the story that TechCrunch floated Saturday:

“We’ve been working with INQ for a couple of years now to help them build a deeply integrated Facebook experience on their devices. While we can’t speak for their future product development plans, we can say that our view is that almost all experiences would be better if they were social.”

GigaOm provided a few more details. A sample:

Facebook ID’s are used for contacts and the call list:

“A consumer’s Facebook ID becomes more important than the phone number itself. Login with Facebook ID, and your social network auto-magically syncs up with the phone. (Android users have seen their Google phones do this since day one…)”

The phone’s content also syncs automatically with a user’s personal Web page, in this case Facebook, GigaOm noted:

“For instance, Facebook photos will communicate directly with the camera and become the repository for photos, with almost no difference in the cloud and the local photo storage. Take a picture and save it to Facebook.”

In other words, Facebook is resurrecting the Kin, the Facebook-centric phones that Microsoft sold for about a month before killing the line in June because almost nobody bought them.

Kin phones were notable for a few things. They were designed with a “social” interface, in which Facebook profiles were more important than the phone number itself. You’d call or message people by tapping on their profile picture, which was displayed in the Kin’s contact list.

Thumbnail image for kinonetwo.jpg

Facebook profile pictures covered the Kin home screen, which displayed friends’ Facebook updates.

Best of all, the Kin came with a companion personal Web page that communicated directly with the phone and its camera, and became the repository for photos, with almost no difference in the cloud and the local phone storage. Take a picture on a Kin phone and it’s saved to your Kin page.

Maybe Facebook will have better luck than Microsoft with this one, unless people decide that they don’t want their phone dominated by a company that makes its money selling targeted advertising.

But instead of haggling with Chinese manufacturers over new hardware, Facebook could probably get a great deal on a warehouse full of unsold phones somewhere in Redmond.

(UPDATE: Facebook’s having a major outage today, just after confirming its phone plans. Hmmm …)

Comments | Topics: Android, Facebook, facebook phone

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