HTC is reportedly working "in cooperation" with Facebook on a customized smartphone, set to be launched in Q3 2012 at the earliest, reports DigiTimes.
HTC worked with Google on the original Nexus One, but the search turned mobile giant took its relationship to Samsung to develop its Nexus branded smartphones. HTC was left out in the dark, and its market share has fallen, and its profits dropped by 70 percent in Q1 2012 alone.
Samsung has the largest slice of the market share pie, while HTC holds out in fifth place with a fraction of Samsung's share, according to recent ComScore statistics.
It makes perfectly good sense for HTC to climb back up the ladder and find its own niche. If Samsung has Nexus, and Apple has the iPhone, HTC can go an entirely different direction and build a dedicated Facebook phone.
But it's not the first time we've heard of a "Facebook phone," nor will it be the last. The report said:
"The new Android smartphone being developed by HTC will have a platform exclusive to Facebook to enable and integrate all functions available on the social networking site, the sources indicated. Previously, HTC launched two Facebook-enabled smartphones, the Salsa and Chacha."
When Facebook's "Buffy" smartphone was rumored last year, it was quickly thought of as a viable product. The rumours slipped away and little more was thought about it.
But Facebook has repeatedly said it is not looking to build a dedicated handset, nor will it allow any phone manufacturer to call any of their devices a 'Facebook phone', as ZDNet's Emil Protalinski writes. Despite this, there have been a number of attempts at making Facebook-like handsets, with dedicated hardware keys and tight integration with the mobile operating system.
DigiTimes' sources say the launch of its own-brand smartphones will be a valuable source of income for the company after it goes public. Instead, it seems Facebook is simply trying to get its software on every smartphone and cellphone it can, without throwing its efforts into a market it likely won't win in the face of its competitors.
In the meantime, the HTC One series is all that keeps the company going. Without Facebook's weight behind a phone, HTC needs to aggressively compete again. But as ZDNet's James Kendrick notes, HTC's situation shows how hard it is for Google's Android partners to play in the smartphone space, forcing them to compete with other partners along with their competitors.
Update at 9:08 a.m. PT: It should be noted as well that in February 2011 at Mobile World Congress, HTC unveiled two new smartphones that feature dedicated Facebook buttons: the HTC ChaCha, which eventually became the HTC Status (review here), and the HTC Salsa.
This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "HTC's to release 'Facebook smartphone' in Q3: report."