Mark Zuckerberg's been saying it all along: There is no Facebook phone.
But this year, there will be dozens of phones like HTC's ChaCha and Salsa, which focus on Facebook with dedicated buttons for the social network.
Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder and chief executive, clarified the Facebook phone strategy in a recorded video statement, presented during HTC's press conference at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
"A lot's been made about a single Facebook phone," he said, "but this year you can expect to see dozens of phones with much deeper social integration than anything we've seen so far."
HTC's phones are still Android-based, with the same Sense user interface that appears in handsets like the Droid Incredible and Evo 4G. They just go a little further with Facebook integration thanks to that dedicated button. Pressing it can take you instantly to the social network, or depending on context, may execute specific actions such as sharing a photo or song. The ChaCha and Salsa also pull in status updates and recent photos when calling a friend, and remind users of upcoming birthdays.
British phone maker INQ, which is owned by HTC, is also making a Facebook-integrated phone called the Cloud Touch. This phone is Android-based, but the entire interface is designed around Facebook features, such as events, notification and Places. The INQ Cloud Touch is hitting the United Kingdom in April, and the United States in the fall.
Although none of these products are Facebook-branded phones, per se, the association seems strong enough that Facebook may not need its own operating system or branded handset. Instead, the social network can gradually take over functions of existing platforms -- such as contacts, calendars, messages and location-based check-ins -- so that other features become superfluous. It's more a transition to the idea of a Facebook phone than a single product, and that transition is happening now.