Facebook To Partner With INQ Mobile On Smart Phone

More details have emerged about Facebook’s plans to launch a smart phone, with reports that the social networking site is working with handset maker INQ Mobile. Bloomberg writes that INQ could launch two Facebook smart phones in Europe in the first half of 2011, followed by the United States later in the year.

Bloomberg’s sources indicate the phones might be branded AT&T in the U.S. although the carrier is still considering whether to carry the phones. It’s understood they would run on Google’s Android mobile operating system and may not carry Facebook branding.

Mobile is increasingly important to Facebook, with about one in four of the 500 million users already logging into the site while on the move. That number will likely continue to grow as smart phones become more widespread and location check-in services such as Places take off. It’s also important for Facebook from a revenue perspective that mobile game players can buy the Facebook Credits virtual currency with the phones to support their game habit on the go.

I don’t think a Facebook-branded mobile phone makes a whole lot of sense. The company is known for its services not actual gadgets so it would confuse the brand message to launch its own phones. (However, I would have said the same thing about branding phones with the name of the phone network and that practice seems relatively common).

The best scenario for Facebook would be if all smart phones – whether Android, Apple’s iPhone or Blackberry – ran the social networking site smoothly. Since Facebook is unlikely to be allowed input into either the iPhone or Blackberry, it makes sense for it to work with Android developers to ensure that it gets the features it wants.