Mark Zuckerberg categorically told us last year that Facebook was not working on a phone and it seems as if he was telling the truth. There will be no single Facebook phone but a series of phones with Facebook deeply integrated into them such as the two INQ launched last week .
Last month it was reported that HTC was going to bring us a Facebook phone and here we are at Mobile World Congress with not one but two Facebook phones from the Taiwanese giant, the ChaCha and the Salsa. There is no real point getting into the ridiculousness of the names of these phones and lets just jump straight in and look at what these phones are all about. While Facebook will be deeply integrated into the Android Gingerbread UI the handsets will ship with, it is the physical Facebook button on the front of each of these devices, which will stand out the most.
The little blue button is context-aware and gently pulses with light whenever there is an opportunity to share content or updates through Facebook. With a single press of the button, you can update your status, upload a photo, share a Website, post what song you are listening to, ‘check in’ to a location and more. For example, you can take a photograph of friends on your phone and upload it instantly to Facebook by simply pressing the button. Or let your friends know what song you’re listening to by pressing the button while listening to music on the phone. The track is automatically identified and shared on Facebook.
Looking at the handsets themselves, the ChaCha has a full portrait QWERTY keyboard underneath a 2.6in HVGA capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 320. The design of the phone sees a unique tilt design to make it easier to type and view the screen according to HTC at least. The ChaCha has a rear 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and LED flash as well as a VGA front-facing camera for video calling. The ChaCha (as well as the Salsa) will be powered by a Qualcomm 7227 processor running at 600MHz.
The Salsa has an all touchscreen form factor but still retains the physical Facebook button on the bottom of the handset. The 3.4in display has a resolution of 480 x 320 and the Salsa boasts the same camera configuration as the ChaCha. We had a chance to have a brief look at the Salsa last week and it looked pretty nice without wowing us completely. We didn’t get a chance to play with the Facebook integration with Android and it is whether or not this is implemented properly that will decide if the ChaCha and Salsa are a success.
HTC told us that it had been working closely with Facebook on how the phone works and it saw it as a global product, which will give Facebook a chance to increase penetration in markets it traditionally doesn't get into. Both handsets are slated for launch at the end of Q2 and there is no word on pricing for either handset.
Update: Mark Zuckerberg just stuck his head into the HTC announcement in Barcelona (virtually anyway) and while talking about he ChaCha and Salsa informed those present that there would be a lot more Facebook phones to come in 2011: "You can expect dozens of phones with deeper integration than ever before."