‘Facebook phone’ just a launcher?

Last week, Facebook sent out an invite to a press event, to come check Facebook’s ‘New home on Android’. The press and bloggers went nuts, proclaiming that Facebook would fork Android and create its own phone. However, if you didn’t wear the sensationalism-induced glasses, it was obvious from the invite itself that there would no forking of Android, and AndroidPolice confirmed it today.

Probably caused by a lack of understanding of the very technical (ahem) term ‘forking’, and a lack of understanding of Android, the press and bloggers proclaimed that Facebook would fork Android. However, the very fact that the invitation mentions the trademark ‘Android’ so prominently is a dead giveaway that Facebook is not forking Android, because those that do are not allowed to use the Android trademark. Pretty elementary knowledge, but apparently not for everyone.

Today, AndroidPolice has a lot more to say about what Facebook is about to unveil. They’ve got their hands on a system dump from the HTC-built Facebook phone, and, surprise surprise, it’s running regular, unforked Android. Instead, the Facebook magic comes not from the operating system, but from the launcher. Yes, Facebook has turned the Facebook application into a launcher replacement. In fact, all evidence points towards this launcher replacement becoming available through the Play Store.

That’s all there appears to be to it. There’s no skinning or anything either. In fact, the image files inside the APKs make it clear you can set Google as your search provider, even though Facebook itself prefers Bing. It makes me wonder if Facebook collaborated with Google on this project – unlikely, but it would be an interesting shift.

All this raises a bunch of questions, the most prominent of which is advertising. Advertising has pretty much made the Facebook application on Android unusable. How will the Facebook launcher treat advertising? Second, privacy. A phone running a Google operating system with a Facebook launcher. Somehow, that just doesn’t sound right.

We’ll know for sure come 4 April, but from what we know so far it seems rather underwhelming. A mid-range
sense 4.5 HTC phone with a Facebook launcher. I’m sure the world will care just as much as they cared about Graph Search.

If you even still know what was.


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