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Facebook phone rises from the dead, again

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Facebook is working on a phone, and has called it "Buffy" in tribute to the impossibly-hard-to-kill vampire slayer of the same name, but don't expect to see it until 2014.

That's according to AllThingsD, which reports Facebook is working with HTC to have the phone ready for launch in 12 to 18 months. That seems a long time to spend sticking a "Facebook" button on the front of an Android handset, and one has to wonder why the social-networking giant feels it necessary to brand their own handset at all.

Facebook is already integrated into a range of low-end phones from Inq, as well as existing HTC handsets. The social network also forms a central plank of the Windows Phone "people" hub, and offers an Android application which attempts to push itself to the font at every opportunity.

But despite that, the company is apparently planning a forked version of Android tweaked to better integrate into the social experience, and plans to spend the next year working on it with a view to release early in 2014.

The idea is to focus on HTML 5 as the application platform, and "deeply integrate" Facebook, according to the omnipresent "sources familiar with the project".

Mobile is obviously very important to Facebook, and Google's stewardship of the leading iOS alternative should certainly be worrying Zuckerberg's empire: the Chocolate Factory's Google+ client for Android is much slicker than Facebook's equivalent. Google hasn't levered its inside knowledge of Android to push Google+ yet, and would probably face regulatory challenges if it did, but Facebook is right to be prepared to face any such move.

There's little doubt there will be a Facebook phone in the next 18 months – an Android handset with a Facebook client pre-installed and perhaps even a dedicated button to access it – but whether it will offer a significantly different experience than that offered on other Android devices is more debatable.

Facebook has branded phones before, and will continue to do so. But like Buffy's Sunnydale, they eventually disappear into a black hole of history until the next journalist is looking for a catchy headline to run with. ®

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